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India and Australia play for the long haul

  • IASbaba
  • June 12, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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INTERNATIONAL/ ECONOMY

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • India and its neighborhood- relations. 
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests 

India and Australia play for the long haul

Context: A ‘virtual’ summit held recently between Prime Ministers of India and Australia

Significance of the summit 

  • Change from the past: After decades of neglect, New Delhi and Canberra are finally coming to terms with each other’s potential
  • Increased Momentum: PMs of India and Australia have met four times over the last year and a half. Australia PM’s visit to India in January 2020 could not take place because of bush fires in Australia and later due to Covid-19. Virtual summit is an important signal to ensure that momentum is not disrupted
  • Elevating Bilateral relationship to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” with a focus on institutionalising their growing engagements
  • Strategic Collaboration: The two sides decided to elevate the “2+2” engagement to the level of Foreign and Defence Ministers, where strategic discussions will be taking place at least every two year
  • Broadening area of Cooperation: Several pacts were announced like framework arrangement on cyber technology, a MoU on cooperation in mining and processing of critical and strategic minerals, vocational training and water management.
  • Renewed focus on Trade: The two nations have restarted talks over the India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) which were suspended in 2015
  • Growing defence synergy with the signing of two pacts
    1. The Australia-India Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement: It will give the two militaries reciprocal access to each nation’s respective military bases, thereby deepening the integration between the two militaries.
    2. The Defence Science and Technology Implementing Arrangement

What is the focus of India-Australia engagement?

  • The focus of their engagement was the maritime geography of the Indo-Pacific. 
  • Post-summit joint statement underscored that both countries “share a vision of a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region to support the freedom of navigation, over-flight and peaceful and cooperative use of the seas.”
  • PM Modi argued, strong ties with Australia are “not only important for our two nations but also for the Indo-Pacific region and the whole world”
  • Australian PM also stated that Canberra is “committed to an open, inclusive, prosperous Indo-Pacific and India’s role in the region will be critical in the years ahead”

How has Australia’s foreign policy vis-à-vis India changed?

  • Moving beyond the ‘Cricket, Curry and Commonwealth’ banality, Canberra has imparted a renewed sense of purpose to its engagement with New Delhi 
  • After initial dilly-dallying from Australia on strong ties with India, it has recognised India now as a pre-eminent maritime power among Indian Ocean countries and a “front-rank partner of Australia.”
  • China’s aggression and assertive foreign policy has played an important role in shaping this robust outreach
    • China’s growing interference in Australian domestic politics and its attempts to use trade for geopolitical purposes has led to Australia’s realignment in foreign affairs
    • Retaliation by China on Australia calling for an independent enquiry into the origins of the novel coronavirus. 
    • China not only suspended Australian beef imports from and imposed tariffs on barley but also issued an advisory to its citizens to avoid travelling to Australia

Way Ahead

  • The Indo-Australian bilateral trade is around $21 billion in 2018-19 which remains below potential. Hence, early signing of CECA is necessary for robust relationship
  • India’s annual Malabar naval exercises with the US and Japan should be expanded to include Australia – The Quad grouping. 
  • The Quad will also become more potent if the four powers are ready to pool together their defence capabilities in the service of regional stability and economic prosperity.

Conclusion

As the two nations realise each other’s significance in the emerging geopolitical and geo-economic dynamic, they can be more ambitious in charting out their future engagement.

Connecting the dots:

  • China’s String of Pearl Theory
  • USA’s Pivot to Asia Policy

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