Leader’s of both the countries have recently attended a bilateral summit through a virtual medium and has resulted in the strengthening of relations betwixt India-Australia.
Relations In The Past
The beginning of ties between both the countries emerged in 1788 itself when there was a European Settlement in Australia which led to a track on to and fro of goods in New South Wales by British East India Company through Kolkata. In 1941, the Indian Trade Office was established in Sydney. But later on, during the cold war era, Australia decided to back Britain and USA led alliance whereas India opted for a Non-Alignment. This had brought numerous misapprehensions between the relations of both countries. Canberra supported the British claim over Andaman and Nicobar Region. Later on, India rejected Australia’s attempt to mediate between India and Pakistan amid the 1940s and 1950s as Australia was in a close liaison with Pakistan, being a part of US alliance bloc.
In the midst of 1998, India had practised its nuclear tests, which was strongly condemned by Australia, yet later on the 2008 waiver granted to India by the NSG and subsequently lifting of uranium ban against the non-signatories of NPT along with a bilateral civil nuclear agreement had brought a solution over the hard relations.
Australia’s Disparities With China
Australia’s exports to China is over 30.6% worth 123.3 billion yet a recent comment by the Australian government has mentioned that they don’t trade their values. CPCs interference in the internal affairs of Australia such as Chinese students protesting for its homeland agenda on Hong Kong and the South China Sea, furthermore practising activities like bribing politicians for promoting their own interest in the country has made Australia rethink over its relations with Beijing. Apart from this, recently the Australian government had insisted for a transparent and independent investigation into the covid19 pandemic which is mostly claimed to be originated in the wet markets of Wuhan. The retaliation by Beijing was by hitting heavy tariffs on barley imports which were over 80.5% and have ordered it’s tourists willing to visit Australia to cancel their tour as Chinese are facing racist treatment on the foreign land.
Australia’s close ties with the USA have made the relations fragile as Australia shares its major security alliance with Washington and during the cold war era had been a part of US-led alliance since then has been sharing a warm correlation with the USA. Recently, the mouthpiece of the Chinese government, GLOBAL TIMES had apprised Canberra of its closer ties with the USA captioning “ Morrison’s blind obedience to the US is a question mark on Australia’s independence and sovereignty”.
India-Australia, Beginning Of A New Partnership
World’s first virtual bilateral summit was held between PM Modi and PM Morrison on 4th of June 2020, after the cancellation of meetings twice before, due to uncertain reasons like forest fires in Australia and a current pandemic. In the held summit both the nations have extended their affinity, later on mentioning it with a term “comprehensive strategic partnership”, whereas both the countries have signed nine agreements including Maritime Security in the Indo-Pacific, Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) and MOU on cooperation in the field of mining and processing of Critical and Strategic Minerals. India has already signed a logistics pact with USA, Singapore, France and South Korea. This will reinforce India’s operational reach in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
Both the countries have decided to conduct 2+2 dialogue to the level of defence and foreign ministers from both the sides who will meet and discuss on “strategic issues”. The meeting shall be held at least every two years. Both the countries have a shared vision of free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region that is rule-based and each and every country shall have freedom of navigation by adhering to the international laws of UNCLOS (United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea). The pair have agreed on peaceful resolution of disputes rather than coercive and unilateral actions.
Neither of the leaders had a discussion on China rather both of them have shown a positive viewpoint by coming together for a rule-based ecosystem in the region. Amidst India-China standoff the relations between New Delhi and Beijing have seen a new low. Most of the South East Asian countries have started speaking against the dragon and this has brought the middle powers to unite against the countries seeking hegemony. China’s attempts to seek unilateral authority over the South China Sea and its eye over the Indian Ocean has brought smaller and neighbouring nations to raise their concerns against the issue as well as the policy of debt trapping that China has been practising, have made the countries alert for their future relations with the so-called middle kingdom.
Defence Cooperation Between India and Australia
The new partners are expected to collaborate in the upcoming regional groupings as well as in the naval and military exercises. Bilateral maritime exercise AUSINDEX was first held in Bay Of Bengal in 2019, while in 2018 Indian Air Force had participated in the exercise named “Pitch Black” in Australia. Kakadu, a biennial naval exercise held in Australia where 27 nations had participated in which India’s INS Sahyadri had represented Indian Navy in 2018. AUSTRAHIND which is an army exercise between both the countries was held in September 2019. India is expecting to invite Australia in the Malabar exercise in which US-INDIA- JAPAN are already participating, certainly, if Australia joins would become an exclusive exercise participated by the Quad members that shall magnify its strategic importance in the Indo-Pacific region.
The citizenry of Indians in Australia which increases up to 7,00,000 and the diaspora present on the foreign land is highly skilled. Most of them either have migrated for working purpose or to study in well known Australian universities. Around 90,000 students study in the universities of Australia. There are hardly any reports in the track records of students breaking the laws and violating the disciplinary rules in the country vis a vis Chinese students. As there is a growing population in the country Australian Indian’s celebrate Indian festivals which unite both the countries culturally.
The recent bilateral meet has definitely intensified the India-Australia relations and brought both the counties closer, sharing common interests and opportunities in the coming future. Concerning the economic domain, Australia is well versed with techniques and technologies like battery storage, Hydro pumping storage, techniques in agricultural post-harvest storage and logistics, Water conservation and management techniques etc. where India can focus and put its hands in. New Delhi is the 5th largest trade partner of Australia with $29 billion trade of goods and services should see a rise in the succeeding years. Australian investors and manufacturers will have to take more interests in the Indian markets shifting their dependence on the Chinese that has always tried to manipulate the strings as per it’s own exigencies.
We have enjoyed watching both the countries playing as rivals to each other on cricket grounds but now this new collaboration between both the continents will lead to considerable results in the future against authoritarian actions and establishing values of democracy and liberty in the region.