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India-Australia Relations


Context


Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is in India and the visit is aimed at taking forward the ties with India to the next level and according to Australian foreign policy, India is a priority for their country.


Background


  • The formal relationship began for many Australians in 1950, when Robert Menzies became the first Australian leader to visit independent India
  • Our relationship has expanded dramatically since we established a Strategic Partnership in 2009.
  • India-Australia ties recently have been set by Tony Abbott, who visited India in September 2014—just months after Narendra Modi took office—and the Indian Prime Minister returning the visit in November 2014.
  • For more details, MEA document on India-Australia Relations

AUSTRALIA-INDIA – COMMON INTERESTS


Apart from the cliché that the relationship between our two countries was based on the three “C’s” of cricket, curry and the Commonwealth, there are other shared interests between us.

  • Australia and India are both liberal democracies which share a commitment to the rule of law, fundamental human rights and the peaceful resolution of disputes.
  • We are both Indian Ocean states which understand that the big strategic and maritime challenges.
  • Today India is the fastest growing economy in the world.  Australia is the world’s 12th largest economy with significant strengths in mining, agriculture, technology and services.

Growing people-to-people ties

There has been a dramatic growth in people-to-people links over recent years.

  • The numbers of Indian-born Australians has tripled over the past decade.  Almost half a million of Australia’s 24 million citizens are now of Indian origin.
  • Punjabi is the fastest growing language in Australia; Hinduism the fastest growing religion.
  • There are 53,000 Indian students studying in Australia today, second largest source of overseas students.
  • And 233,000 Indians visited Australia in 2015, making India our eighth largest source of visitors.

Focus Areas of Relationship now


Australian PM has written an editorial in the Hindu and mentions that the three focus areas of relationship are Economic relations, Education and strategic partnerships.

  1. Economic Relations

 

  • India is fastest growing major economy today and it presents Australia a rare opportunity be a part of the growth story. From Mumbai to Melbourne, from Bengaluru to Brisbane, India will be in the market to buy some of the best things Australia has to offer.
  • Trade between our countries is a little less than $20 billion but there is huge potential to even quadruple it.

 

 

  1. Education Partnership

 

  • Australia is the second-most popular study destination for Indian students — 60,000 students went to Australia to learn.
  • Australian Government launched New Colombo Plan, to send more and more young Australians to India as a place to study and boost their own qualifications and experience.
  • Skill India Mission which Indian Government is aiming to train 400 million people by 2022, Australia can help us in this regard.
  • Collaboration between our institutes on high-end research, innovation, science and technology are central to developing our knowledge partnership.
  • Australia’s minister for education and training, senator Simon Birmingham, is bringing one of the largest Australian delegations of skills providers and higher education representatives to visit India to celebrate Australia’s knowledge partnership with India

 

  1. Strategic Relations

 

  • The security and stability of the Indo-Pacific is fundamental to both of us and my visit provides an opportunity to discuss key regional and geostrategic issues and strengthen our engagement.
  • Australia has recently adopted the terminology – “Indo-Pacific” moving away from the Asia-Pacific bringing India into the strategic frame of the region reflecting India’s greater involvement in East Asian affairs, both directly and also institutionally through the East Asian Summit.
  • Last year we saw new or expanded maritime, cyber, terrorism and transnational crime dialogues. We had our first bilateral maritime exercise – AUSINDEX – which will occur biennially now.
  • Civil nuclear cooperation agreement entered into force, enabling the export of uranium to India.

Challenges


  • Adani Group is facing opposition to its plans to invest $16.5 billion in a coal mine in Queensland. Australia’s largest coal project—which could fuel power generation for 100 million Indians and create 10,000 jobs in Queensland—has ignited protests from environment groups who are concerned that the development will increase carbon pollution and endanger the health of the Great Barrier Reef marine park in northern Queensland. Environmental opposition to the mine, which could begin production in 2020, has delayed the first phase of the project and prompted the company to cut underground capacity by 38%. This will be on table while negotiating deals.

Prospects in Other areas for Engagement


Energy

  • Australia is a natural partner for India in the energy sector. By the end of this decade, Australia is expected to overtake Qatar to be the largest exporter of Liquefied Natural Gas. Australia’s long-term and secure LNG supply can help diversify India its 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 presents new opportunities to engage with India. The agenda resonates well with India’s ‘Start-up India’ and ‘Make in India’ campaign.

Space

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation has a proud record of space exploration, including recently with its successful Mars Orbiter Mission and launching 104 satellites in one go.
  • India can provide commercial Space applications to Australia for several of its Space initiatives.

 CECA & Regional Economic Architecture

  • The bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement – or CECA is currently under negotiation. For India, CECA would give improved access to the world’s twelfth largest economy.
  • With over half of India’s exports to Australia currently facing tariffs, it would quickly put India on the same tariff-free footing as other FTA partners of Australia, such as China – including for key Indian exports such as textiles and clothing, auto parts and jewellery.
  • And it would facilitate investment flows with Australia, which has the world’s third largest pool of investment funds under management.
  • And, on the issue of regional economic architecture, Australia has made clear its support for Indian membership of APEC.  APEC has an important role in nurturing regional economic integration.  The region and India would benefit from India being part of it

Conclusion


  • We share strategic interests in Asia, our economies are highly complementary, the values are closely aligned. We both value democracy, liberty, the rule of law, human rights and freedom of expression. We are both maritime nations for whom regional stability is of paramount importance. And this is recognised by the expansive agenda set out in our Framework for Security Cooperation.
  • There is a Little India in Melbourne, Diwali celebrations are carried out in Brisbane, and the long-established Sikh community on the North Coast of New South Wales, Indian-Australians are contributing a lot to the modern society of Australia.

We, therefore, have all the ingredients of a strong Australia-India relationship going forward.


Practice Questions

Questions

  1. What are the potential areas India and Australia could engage each other in to take the relations to the next level?
  2. After the racist attacks on Indians in Australia in 2009, the relations have improved leaps and bounds. Examine the prospects of India-Australia relations and areas of engagement.
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