Policy Briefs

Canada's Defence Challenges in the Indo-Pacific A View from Down Under

John Blaxland
Created On:
April 4, 2024


Foreign Policy

Brief Overview

This PIF Brief examines Canada’s defence challenges in the Indo-Pacific viewed through an Australian lens, focusing on common interests in regional security, and emphasizing the need for Canada to increase its participation in Indo-Pacific strategy and procurement coordination efforts.

Authored by Professor John Blaxland, this brief highlights the importance and benefits of cooperation on military capability acquisition, citing Australia-UK-US joint efforts on submarine development, and calls on Canada to revisit its current approach.

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Executive Summary

This article examines Canada’s defence challenges in the Indo-Pacific viewed through an Australian lens, principally for a Canadian audience (and for Australians ignorant of the significance of Canada as an Indo-Pacific partner). It reflects on a striking range of commonalities, including on regional security and stability. With the world facing heightened great power contestation, looming environmental catastrophe, a spectrum of governance challenges, and all accelerated by the fourth industrial revolution, the urgency for close coordination of their finite resources is great. But to be taken more seriously, Canada has to demonstrate that it is genuine about its plans for increased Indo-Pacific engagement. Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy is a good start. To help make this come to fruition, cooperation is called for with Australia and other regional security partners on environmental, governance and military preparedness issues across six domains (sea, land, air, space, cyber and cognitive). This is necessary to enhance their mutual defence capabilities and their shared and overlapping interests, including beyond national defence. Tough choices on capability acquisitions can be easier to make by working closely with traditional security partners. Having realised the obsolescence of diesel-electric propulsion submarines for long-distance operations (due to persistent surveillance satellites aided by AI), Australia, along with its UK and US partners, has committed to procure and develop nuclear propulsion submarines. Now that Australia is taking this path, Canada should revisit its late Cold War decision and do likewise.

About the Author

Professor John Blaxland is Director of the North America Liaison Office for the Australian National University. He is the author of a number of works including Strategic Cousins: Australian and Canadian Expeditionary Forces and the British and American Empires (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006); (co-lead writer) Facing West Facing North: Canada and Australia in East Asia (CIGI/ ASPI, 2014); A Geostrategic SWOT Analysis for Australia (Security and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University, 2019); and (with Clare Birgin) Revealing Secrets: An Unofficial History of Australian Signals Intelligence and the Advent of Cyber (University of New South Wales Press, 2023)