TRACING THE RELATIONSHIP
- The India-Australia bilateral relationship has been underpinned by the shared values of pluralistic, Westminster-style democracies, Commonwealth traditions, expanding economic engagement, and increasing high-level interaction.
- Several common traits, including strong, vibrant, secular, and multicultural democracies, a free press, an independent judicial system, and English language, serve as the foundation for closer co-operation and multifaceted interaction between the two countries.
- The end of the Cold War and beginning of India’s economic reforms in 1991 provided the impetus for the development of closer ties between the two nations.
- The ever-increasing no. of Indian students travelling to Australia for higher education, and the growing tourism and sporting links, have played a significant role in strengthening bilateral relations.
- With the passage of time, ties evolved in the direction of a strategic relationship, alongside the existing economic engagement. In recent years, the relationship has charted a new trajectory of transformational growth. With greater convergence of views on issues such as international terrorism, and a shared commitment to a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region, the two democracies have taken their cooperation to plurilateral formats, including the Quad (with the United States and Japan).
- In September 2014, Australian PM TONY ABOTT visited India and in November that year, Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to make an official visit to Australia after Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. He also became the first Indian PM to address a joint sitting of the Parliament of Australia.
- In 2018, Australia announced implementation of “An India Economic Strategy to 2035”
- A three-pillar strategy to build a sustainable long-term India economic strategy. It includes 10 sectors and 10 states in evolving Indian market where Australia has competitive advantage
India-Australia economic ties are stuck on second tier despite India enjoying tier 1 diplomatic relation with Australia for more than 2 decades India’s economic growth ,its appetite for resources, energy demand , skill development, technical knowledge and investments have made it an important trade partner and export destination for Australia.
The two countries finally signed ECTAA in Dec 2022
Indo-pacific a global strategic region as high volume of trade tasing through strait of Malacca starts of Singapore and gulf of Hormuz the region has become competing claims of power and power plays as India and Australia has strategic position in Indo-pacific and are natural allies in the region
Culture with a thrust on soft diplomacy : Indian diaspora in Australia now constitutes 700,000 strong and the fastest growing large Diaspora in Australia. This Diaspora can play a big role to enhance the partnership by creating personal links in business, arts , education ,politics and civil society.
Later In June 2020, Modi and Prime Minister Scott Morrison elevated the bilateral relationship from the Strategic Partnership concluded in 2009 to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP).
Prime Ministers Modi and Albanese met thrice last year. There has been a series of high-level engagements and exchange of ministerial visits in 2022 and in 2023.
AREAS OF COOPERATION
Bilateral mechanisms include high level visits, Annual Meetings of Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers’, Framework Dialogue, Joint Trade & Commerce Ministerial Commission, India-Australia ‘2+2’ Foreign Secretaries and Defence Secretaries Dialogue
Australia’s White Paper on Foreign Policy released in November 2017 sees India in the front rank of Australia’s international partnerships. It says, “Beyond an increasingly important economic relationship, our security interests are congruent, particularly in relation to the stability and openness of the Indian Ocean. Both the countries have common interests in upholding international law, especially in relation to freedom of navigation and maritime security”.
India and Australia co-operate in various multilateral fora. Australia supports India’s candidature in an expanded UN Security Council. Both India and Australia are members of the Commonwealth, IORA, ASEAN Regional Forum, Asia Pacific Partnership on Climate and Clean Development, and have participated in the East Asia Summits.
Both countries have also been cooperating as members of the Five Interested Parties (FIP) in the WTO context. Australia is an important player in APEC and supports India’s membership of the organisation. In 2008, Australia became an Observer in SAARC.
In 2021, India was Australia’s sixth-largest two-way goods and services trading partner and fourth-largest goods and services export market.
The Bilateral trade was US$ 27.5 billion in 2021; with ECTA, there is potential for it to reach around US$ 50 billion in five years with the signing of The Economic Cooperation Trade Agreement (ECTA) — the first free trade agreement signed by India with a developed country in a decade — entered into force in December 2022, and has resulted in an immediate reduction of duty to zero on 96% of Indian exports to Australia in value (that is 98% of the tariff lines) and zero duty on 85% of Australia’s exports (in value) to India.
People-to-people ties: India is one of the top sources of skilled immigrants to Australia. As per the 2021 Census, around 9.76 lakh people in Australia reported their ancestry as Indian origin, making them the second largest group of overseas-born residents in Australia. To celebrate India@75, the Australian government illuminated more than 40 buildings across the country, and Prime Minister Albanese issued a personal video message.
Education: The Mechanism for Mutual Recognition of Educational Qualifications (MREQ) was signed and implemented. This will facilitate mobility of students between India and Australia. Deakin University and University of Wollongong are planning to open campuses in India. More than 1 lakh Indian students are pursuing higher education degrees in Australian universities, making Indian students the second largest cohort of foreign students in Australia.
Defence cooperation: The 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue was held in September 2021, and the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Australia visited in June 2022. The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) was concluded during the Virtual Summit in June 2020, and the two militaries held several joint exercises in 2022.
Australia will host military operations with India, Japan, and the US in the “Malabar” exercises off the coast of Perth in August and has invited India to join the Talisman Sabre exercises later this year.
- Ties between Australia and China were strained after Canberra in 2018 banned Chinese telecom firm HUAWEI from the 5G network. Later, it called for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, and slammed China’s human rights record in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
- China responded by imposing trade barriers on Australian exports, and by cutting off all ministerial contact.
- India has been facing an aggressive Chinese military along the border. New Delhi and Canberra have been assessing the Chinese challenge since 2013.
- Both Australia and India support a rules-based international order and are partners “in seeking to forge regional institutions in the Indo-Pacific which are inclusive, promote further economic integration. The countries’ participation in Quad is an example of their convergence of interests, based on shared concerns.
Clean energy: The countries signed a Letter of Intent on New and Renewable Energy in February 2022 which provides for cooperation towards bringing down the cost of renewable energy technologies, especially ultra-low- cost solar and clean hydrogen.
During the Virtual Summit in March 2022, India announced matching funds of AUD 10 million for Pacific Island Countries under Infrastructure for Resilient Island States (IRIS) and of AUD 10 million for Pacific Island Countries under International Solar Alliance (ISA).
Civil Nuclear Cooperation: A Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement between the two countries was signed in September 2014 during the visit of the Australian Prime Minister to India. The agreement came into force from 13 November 2015. The Australian Parliament passed the “Civil Nuclear Transfer to India Bill 2016” on 01 December 2016 which ensures that Uranium mining companies in Australia may fulfil contracts to supply Australian uranium to India for civil use
Consular cooperation: The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and the Extradition Treaty between India and Australia, which were signed in June 2008, have been ratified by both the Governments, and have entered into force on 20 January 2011.
India and Australia signed a Social Security Agreement on the eve of our PM’s visit to Australia in November 2014. The Agreement has been ratified by both countries and came into force with effect from 1 January 2016.
- India and Australia can play a significant role in creating a strong and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. The Quad partnership must be leveraged and widened in its relevance and influence, by enhancing security and economic cooperation among the member nations
- India and Australia need to take a leadership role in maritime security affairs in the two oceans and have deeper engagements with the Pacific and Indian Ocean Island countries.
- Joint defence manufacturing has a tremendous potential to be explored, leveraging Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative. Furthermore, broader long-term reciprocal access arrangements, like foundational agreements with US, can be looked at to emphasise real-time maritime domain awareness and information sharing, besides interoperability and operational coordination.
- Close cooperation in critical emerging technologies will be a win-win for both countries, for example in fields of Artificial Intelligence, semiconductors, drones, 6G, blockchain, etc.