India-Australia relations

  • IASbaba
  • September 6, 2022
  • 0
International Relations
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Context: The fifth round of the bilateral Track 1.5 dialogue will set the pace for Canberra’s deepening relationship with New Delhi.

India-Australia Relationship

  • The India-Australia bilateral relationship has undergone an evolution in recent years, developing along a positive track, into a strategic partnership.

Economic Cooperation: Bilateral trade between the two countries stood at about US$ 12.5 billion in FY 2020- 21 and has already surpassed US$ 17.7 billion in the first 10 months of FY 2021-22.

  • Key imports from Australia include coal, gold and LNG while key exports to the country from India include diesel, petrol and gems and jewellery.
  • Recently both the countries signed a historic interim Economic Cooperation And Trade Agreement (INDAUS ECTA), which will give a fillip to India’s exports in the textiles, leather, gems, and jewellery sector Down Under.

Security Cooperation: India and Australia are both members of the Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) along with the US and Japan.

  • In 2009, India and Australia established a ‘Strategic Partnership’, including a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation which has been further elevated to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2020.

Science and Technology: The countries have established an Australia-India Strategic Research Fund {(AISRF) – a pillar of collaboration on science, technology and research} and successfully conducted the 2021 India Australia Circular Economy Hackathon.

  • Australia is also supporting India’s Gaganyaan Space Program.

People to People Ties: Australia is investing in India’s talented young people through a new Future Skills Initiative between education and training providers and industry.

  • This complements the Australian government’s significant new Maitri scholarships and fellowships which gives Indian students and researchers the chance to experience Australia’s world class education system.

Energy Cooperation: A Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement between the two countries was signed in 2014.

  • The agreement came into force in 2015 and provides the framework for substantial new trade in energy between Australia and India.

Regional and Multilateral Cooperation: Both the countries are part of QUAD, G20, WTO, WHO’s COVAX, ISA etc. regional and multilateral initiatives.

Concerns impeding the relationship

  • India’s stand on Russia- Ukraine crisis: Australia has criticized Russian invasion of Ukraine and sided with the U.S. and western countries.
  • However, India has refrained from criticizing Russia over the issue. This can create differences in bilateral discourse and the functioning of QUAD.
  • No Free Trade Agreement: Both the nations have been interacting and communicating with each other for decades but have failed to create a consensus on a Free trade agreement.
  • China’s Discontent: China is unhappy with growing security cooperation between Australia and India. The Chinese government responded to the Quadrilateral dialogue by issuing formal diplomatic protests to its members, calling it “Asian NATO”.
  • Lack of Uranium Supply: The progress on uranium supply has been very low, despite efforts from both sides.
  • In 2017, Australia had sent its first uranium shipment to India but that was cited as “a small sample of uranium” transferred “purely for testing purposes”.
  • Attacks on Indians: Increasing Racist attacks on Indians in Australia has been a major issue.

Way forward:

Energy: Australia is a natural partner for India in the energy sector.

  • Australia’s long-term and secure LNG supply can help diversify India’s current highly concentrated import supplies from the Middle East.

Science & Technology: India and Australia have a strong track record of collaborating in research and innovation.

  • The $84 million Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) is Australia’s largest.
  • The Australian Government’s $1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda present new opportunities to engage with India. The agenda resonates well with India’s ‘Start-up India’ and ‘Make in India’ campaign. This can be spread in other areas of science & technology

Economic ties: Our economies are highly complementary. But trade is still very narrow.

  • If we are to build depth to our economic relationship, we need to broaden its base. That is why negotiating a CECA will put in place the framework to support the freer flow of particularly services and investment between our countries. For India, CECA would give improved access to the world’s twelfth largest economy.

Security: Regular strategic dialogue should focus on common interests, including relating to China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, terrorism and maritime security.

  • A bilateral security declaration is needed between Australia and India.
  • India should reciprocate Australia’s overtures to engage as a priority maritime partner.
  • The two armies should help each other too, for example in Special Forces training.

Although there are strategic divergences in the Australia–India relationship, there are more common interests. The time has come for an honest appraisal of these divergences and introspection regarding how to build a stronger bilateral strategic relationship. Last year the Australian government released an India Economic Strategy that comprehensively laid out the weaknesses of the economic relationship and identified pathways to push it forward. Similar initiatives aimed at evaluating and advancing the geopolitical relationship are needed.

Source: The Hindu


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