Soundings Papers: The Indo-Pacific Endeavour: Reflections and Proposals for Australia’s Premier Naval Diplomacy Activity

Soundings No. 16
Soundings No. 16



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by
Adam Lockyer, Justin Burke, Yves-Heng Lim, Fred Smith

After a three decade lull, great power competition has returned to Asia. This burgeoning strategic era will, however, be very different from what Australia has experienced in the past. First, rather than being on the periphery of the Cold War’s strategic competition in Northeast Asia, Australia is now central to the Indo-Pacific region and the new tussle for influence. Second, many of Australia’s neighbours in Southeast Asia are wealthier and more militarily capable than they were during the Cold War. This means that the Royal Australian Navy has a greater – and more varied – number of security partnerships to nurture and cultivate. Third, despite the new rivalries, nations have shown themselves to be more hesitant to fight openly with one another. Instead, they have engaged in grey-area tactics to expand their influence and pursue their strategic interests. The Royal Australian Navy has been cognisant of these changing dynamics and has transformed the way it conducts naval diplomacy. In particular, it has moved away from single ship port visits, which were having diminishing effect, to task group size activities. Central to the change in the way Australia conducts its naval diplomacy and joint exercises has been the Indo-Pacific Endeavour. After three iterations, we felt it was time to take a step-back and evaluate how this activity has progressed and examine ways of propelling it forward.