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Australia–India scripting a ‘new chapter’ in bilateral relations

  • IASbaba
  • March 5, 2022
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(ORF: Raisina Debates)


March 1: Australia–India scripting a ‘new chapter’ in bilateral relations-https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/australia-india-scripting-a-new-chapter-in-bilateral-relations/  

TOPIC:

  • GS-2: India and Australia

Australia–India scripting a ‘new chapter’ in bilateral relations

Context: The engagement on both sides has amplified across multiple platforms and sectors, clearly focused on building tangible commitments and actions, to embrace a win-win partnership. If 2020 was the year of elevation of Australia–India bilateral ties to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), 2021 was about bringing pace, energy, and solidifying the bilateral economic engagement, 2022 is surely about a focused head start to script a new and committed engagement narrative, and the month of February had been a busy and promising month for bilateral ties.

The Global Geostrategic and Geoeconomic Landscape

  • The Quad (this time at Australia) agreed to “accelerate the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines across the region, address regional challenges including humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR), maritime security, counterterrorism, countering disinformation and cyber security.” 
  • Australia has also proposed to host an Indo-Pacific Clean Energy Supply Chain Forum in mid-2022.
  • Indo-Pacific economic integration: Australia will provide AUD$36.5 million over five years, including AUD $11.4 million to improve regional cooperation on maritime shipping, disaster resilience, and information sharing. It will invest AUD$10.2 million to increase engagement on regional economic challenges and explore new opportunities in the digital sector in Bangladesh. 
  • In addition, the Australian government will invest AUD$5.8 million to promote infrastructure investment opportunities in the region to Australian business, invest AUD$4.8 million to improve Australian resources and mining equipment, technology and services (METS), and understanding of South Asian markets. 
  • A further AUD$4.3 million will support relationships across the LNG supply chain between Australia, India, and Bangladesh. 

Together, these measures will support opportunities for trade, investment, and connectivity in the Northeast Indian Ocean. The evolving narrative on the Indo-Pacific region reflects the emerging structural shift in geostrategic and geoeconomic imagination and environment.

India and Australia

A. With the advent of industry 4.0, cyber security, innovation, digital economy, and cyber & critical technology cooperation have become a key part of Australia’s relationship with India, enabling an ecosystem of collaboration between industry, academia, and subject matter experts through the New Centre of Excellence for Critical and Emerging Technology Policy to build security standards, best practices, and ethical framework. 

B. The inaugural Australia–India Foreign minister’s Cyber Dialogue focused on further promoting stronger investment opportunities and cutting-edge innovation in cyber, critical, and emerging technologies.

C. Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA): There is a likely possibility of a full-fledged CECA becoming a reality sooner than later, considering the Australian federal elections are just around the corner. The economic context within which the CECA is being negotiated has changed, it is a completely different world to two years ago, and the ways in which crisis of supply, people and resourcing has manifested itself in business needs to be examined thoroughly. The CECA is likely to 

  • Lower tariffs
  • Provide greater access to Australian and Indian exporters in areas such as textiles, pharmaceuticals, footwear, dairy products, milk, premium wines and many more, focused on post-COVID economic recovery, along with the importance of an early resolution of ongoing issue of taxation of offshore income of Indian firms in Australia. 

D. MoU on Tourism Cooperation: Promote travel between the two markets and advance cooperation on tourism policy, data sharing, training, and industry engagement. Pre-pandemic, India was Australia’s fastest-growing source of international visitors. A large Australian Indian diaspora population and international student cohort with accessible connectivity will continue to open up international travel to a larger proportion of India’s population, also a strong enabler in building ‘Brand Australia’ in India. 

E. Australia–India Infrastructure Forum: Will serve as a hub to promote two-way investment in infrastructure and support broader trade and investment bilateral objectives. Opportunities in urban infrastructure, transport, and water remain key focus sub-sectors for Australia in India. With large sovereign funds, pension funds, private equity investing in India, and with infrastructure spend slated to be US$ 1.4 trillion by 2025 as part of the Govt. of India national infrastructure pipeline, opportunities are tremendous within the infrastructure sector to align mutual capabilities.

F. To foster the Australia-India community cooperation, creativity, understanding and exchange, Australia has also launched three Maitri (friendship) initiatives with a total investment worth AUD$20.8 million.

  1. The AUD$11.2 million Maitri Scholarships Programme aims to attract and support high achieving Indian students to study in Australian universities particularly in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and health. 
  2. The AUD$3.5 million Maitri Grants and Fellowships Programme will build links between future leaders, supporting mid-career Australian and Indian professionals to collaborate on strategic research and shared priorities. 
  3. The AUD$6.1 million Australia-India Maitri Cultural Partnership will boost the role of creative industries in economic and people-to-people ties to promote artistic talent and cultural exchanges in visual and performing arts, literature, film, television, and music industries.

G. 4th India – Australia Energy Dialogue: Both countries have decided to drive down the costs of technologies that will help reduce global emissions, with focus on tangible actions and projects including the manufacture and deployment of ultra-low-cost solar and green hydrogen. 

  1. Pave the way for working towards reducing the cost of new and renewable energy technologies
  2. Scaling up deployment in order to accelerate global emissions reduction. 
  3. Focus of this LoI: Scaling up manufacture and deployment of ultra-low-cost solar and clean hydrogen
  4. Other areas of cooperation: There is an urgent need to focus on advancing technology and clean energy transition. Energy efficiency technologies
    • Grid management
    • R&D collaboration on flue gas desulphurisation, biomass or hydrogen co-firing
    • Water cycle optimization
    • Renewables integration
    • Batteries
    • Electric mobility
    • Apart from the power sector, there are many desirable areas of cooperation agreed under 
      • Reducing costs of Green Hydrogen
      • Cooperation in sphere of coal-based energy security and resource deployment
      • Investment opportunities in the minerals sector
      • Exploring potential for an LNG Partnership

Conclusion

The partnership between Australia and India is no longer one-dimensional or single layered, what we are witnessing today is a truly comprehensive bilateral growth story that is driven by consistency, commitment, and action. The key is to keep the Australia story thriving in India, and India story thriving in Australia on a consistent basis in public memory; this involves a holistic multi-stakeholder strategy and approach which deepens understanding and appreciation of each other.

Can you answer the following question?

  1. Collaboration between India and Australia can limit the dangers of the growing geopolitical imbalance in the Indo-Pacific. Comment.

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