The term Indo-Pacific, promoted by the US and adopted by its strategic partners, has been used to reflect the importance of India – along with Australia and Japan – in Washington’s strategy to deal with China’s assertiveness in the Pacific and tensions on the Taiwan Strait.
China considers Taiwan a breakaway region that should be reunited with the mainland and tensions have soared over recent months, with concern over the potential for conflict further stoked by China’s regular large scale military exercises near the island.
Veer Guardian “is the first step to higher levels of drills and exercises between both the air forces in the coming years”, Iida said, adding that it is “indispensable” for “status-quo countries” to jointly strengthen deterrence so as to keep the regional peace.
“They use different equipment and procedures and cannot fight as a combined force,” Heath said.
“The involvement of so many countries in military exercises complicates Chinese decision making and adds another deterring influence,” Heath said.
Last month, Washington held air drills with South Korea, marking the first visit by the F-22 stealth fighters to Seoul since May 2018.
From September to December, Britain held a series of exercises that saw the UK Armed Forces train alongside Australia, Japan, South Korea and other regional countries.
Australia also hosted the Pitch Black joint military exercise in August with 17 countries taking part, with the German Air Force taking part for the first time.
US and Indonesian soldiers take their positions during Super Garuda Shield 2022 joint military exercises in Baturaja, South Sumatra, Indonesia on August 12, 2022. Photo: AP
In August, the US conducted joint combat exercises with Indonesia in the Garuda Shield with over a dozen countries including Australia and Japan, making it the largest edition since Garuda Shield was established in 2009.
Veer Guardian is likely to reveal more about the gaps in the potential for military cooperation between the two nations than anything else, said Kei Koga, an associate public policy and global affairs professor at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
India’s air force is reliant on Russian equipment, while Japan is mainly based on American tech and hardware, so “bilateral interoperability” will be limited, he said.
Yet it remains an “opportunity for both to assess the possibility and limitations of operational cooperation”, Koga added. But there are risks in the new frenzy to make alliances.
They can “trigger an arms race and increase the risk of conflict, so communication becomes important”, Koga said, citing the increased risk of military exercises being misinterpreted or misunderstood.
China has already moved to show that it will not be outdone in its backyard.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida signed a pact deepening security ties with US President Joe Biden last week, in a move Beijing says is provocative and likely to worsen relations.
But Japan’s network of military partners beyond the US is also fast expanding.
Iida said Japan intends to increase defence cooperation with countries that have common strategic interest in maintaining the rules-based security order in the Indo-Pacific “to cope with the revisionist powers such as China and Russia”.
The ambitions and growing capabilities of China and Russia “are the root causes of the instability”, he said.