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Indo Pacific Risk and Advisory 03/24


India DRDO SMART Torpedo Test

Here is a brief review of developments in the Indo Pacific with outline trajectory, risks and impact ahead.


Diplomacy


The Solomon Islands’ parliament chose former foreign minister Jeremiah Manele, as their new prime minister, in a secret ballot. Manele, is a China-friendly foreign policy supporter. This comes months after Maldives – an island nation in the Indian Ocean – elected a strongly pro-China President in November last year shifting the balance in favour of China,

After Japan, Canada and New Zealand, South Korea has expressed interest in joining the AUKUS pact Part II between the U.S., UK and Australia.


Military

 

US IndoPacom outgoing commander Adm. John Aquilino described Beijing's strategy to the Financial Times as a "boiling frog" tactic, or to gradually step up aggression so that other nations don't immediately realize when a critical point in conflict is reached.  "There needs to be a continual description of China's bad behavior that is outside legal international norms. And that story has to be told by all the nations in the region," he said.


Adm. Aquilino, hosted a virtual Chiefs of Defense meeting at the USINDOPACOM headquarters in Hawaii to strengthen military-to-military relationships, discuss common security issues and foster regional cooperation on April 29, 2024.  During the meeting, , Aquilino introduced Adm. Samuel Paparo, who will become the USINDOPACOM commander upon completion of a change of command ceremony on May 3, 2024. 


France and Japan will start formal discussions on a reciprocal troop access deal aimed at bolstering military cooperation amidst escalating maritime tensions in the Indo-Pacific region and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.


Gen. Stephen Whiting, commander of U.S. Space Command visited the U.S. Indo-Pacific area of responsibility April 18-28 in his first international visit.


A newly released People's Liberation Army (PLA) video showed a Chinese H-6K bomber aircraft testing a new air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM), similar to the Russian Kinzhal missile used in Ukraine. While the H-6 has a range of almost 6,000 kilometres (km), the H-6K's more efficient engines mean it could fly significantly further.


China's third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, set out for maiden sea trials. The sea trials will primarily test the reliability and stability of the aircraft carrier's propulsion and electrical systems. Since its launch in June 2022, the Fujian has completed its mooring trials, outfitting work and equipment adjustments. It has met the technical requirements for sea trials.


India's DRDO conducted a Supersonic Missile-Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART) test. As per the DRDO, SMART is a next-generation missile-based light-weight torpedo delivery system, designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to enhance the anti-submarine warfare capability of the Indian Navy far beyond the conventional range of lightweight torpedo.


Risks and Impact


Continued partnership building of small and large states in the Indo Pacific aligned to China or the United States is evident. Smaller states which are democracies are perforce swinging what can be said to be a pendulum from one to the other based on proclivities of their leadership and there is also a strong “anti incumbency,” factor in terms of alignment of a regime in the past to the US or China.


Influence and money power is also said to be playing a role.


On the military side alliances are growing in areas of technology as far as the US is concerned while China is on a lone furrow but steady progression in introduction of new missiles and large platforms will provide Beijing an advantage at least in the future.

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