India and Australia Relations
INDIA AND AUSTRALIA
- India’s Defence Minister and External Affairs Minister held the inaugural ‘2+2’ talks with their Australian counterparts.
- Both countries are taking several steps to implement their vision of a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.
Positive trajectory of relations
- completed one year of their Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and their bond is deepening.
- growing convergence of views on geo-strategic and geo-economic issues backed by a robust people-to-people connection
- Both countries have stepped up collaborations through institutions and organisations on many issues in bilateral, trilateral, plurilateral and multilateral formats
- ‘2+2’ Foreign and Defence Secretaries’ Dialogue
- an enduring interest in a free, open, inclusive and rule-based Indo-Pacific region includes stability and freedom of navigation for all nations in the region
- stepped up security dialogue with key partner-countries to deepen coordination in areas where security interests are mutual
- Malabar naval exercise by the Quad (Australia, India, Japan, the U.S.)
- Two-way trade between them was valued at $24.4 billion in 2020.
- alignment of strategic interests driven by a common value system.
- Both are vibrant democracies which have respect for international laws and a belief in the equality of all nations irrespective of their size and strength.
- Beyond bilateralism, both countries are also entering into partnerships with like-minded countries, including Indonesia, Japan and France, in a trilateral framework.
- India has a high tariff for agriculture and dairy products which makes it difficult for Australian exporters to export these items to India.
- India faces non-tariff barriers and its skilled professionals in the Australian labour market face discrimination.
- The geo-political and geo-economic churning in international affairs makes it imperative for India and Australia to forge a partnership guided by principles with a humane approach.
Back to Basics
India – Australia Relations
- Both the countries share the ethos and values of pluralism, liberal democracy, steadfast commitment to rule of law, Commonwealth traditions, international peace, development and security.
- The establishment of diplomatic relations between them dates back to the Pre-independence era. It started with the opening of the Consulate General of India as a Trade Office in Sydney in 1941.
- Since then the ties have blossomed and currently, they enjoy a multi-faceted cooperation spanning areas of political interactions, economic collaboration, scientific research, strategic convergence, friendly people-to-people ties especially diaspora links and sporting ties of hockey and cricket.
- Both the countries are members of G-20, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), IORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association), Asia Pacific Partnership on Climate and Clean Development, East Asia Summit and the Commonwealth. Australia has been extremely supportive of India’s quest for membership of the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation).
- Australia whole-heartedly welcomed India s joining of the MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime).
- In recent years, the India-Australia economic engagement has magnified significantly. Australia has been very appreciative of economic reforms undertaken by India and its improving ease of doing business rankings because of the reforms was undertaken by the current government. India has welcomed Australia to participate in its Make in India, Smart Cities, AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation), Clean Ganga Project etc. initiatives.
- The current government has invited Australia s private sector participation in Indian economy. It says red tape in India has been replaced by red carpet and has welcomed private investors.
Trade and Economic
- The establishment of India-Australia Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) in 1989 encouraged dialogue at a government and business level on multiple issues of trade and investment.
- India-Australia CEO Forum is a significant mechanism through which business leaders from both nations engage in mutually fruitful dialogue to enhance bilateral trade and investment relationship. The Forum consists of heads of Indian and Australian business from multiple sectors like energy and resources, agri-business, financial sector, telecommunications, IT, education and pharmaceuticals. The last meeting of the Forum was held in New Delhi on 29th August 2017.
- The city of Canberra, Australia hosted the seventh India-Australia Economic Policy Dialogue during 16-18 July 2017.
- India’s main exports to Australia are Refined Petroleum, medicaments, while our major imports are Coal, copper ores & concentrates, Gold, and education related services.
- India s major imports from Australia are coal, non-monetary gold, copper, wool, fertilizers, wheat, vegetables and education-related services.
- In 2016, India s trade in goods and services with Australia was about US$ 15.6 billion.
- In 2016, India s export to Australia was about US$4.6 billion.
- In 2016, India s import from Australia was about US$11 billion.
- The two countries are also involved in the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) negotiations.
- Indian companies have invested in Australian mining sector successfully.
- India is the 5th largest trade partner of Australia with trade in goods and services.
Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement
- A Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement between the two countries was signed in September 2014 during the visit of the Australian Prime Minister to India. The agreement came into force from 13 November 2015.
- The Australian Parliament passed the “Civil Nuclear Transfer to India Bill 2016” on 01 December, 2016 which ensures that Uranium mining companies in Australia may fulfil contracts to supply Australian uranium to India for civil use with confidence that exports would not be hindered by domestic legal action challenging the consistency of the safeguards applied by the IAEA in India and Australia’s international non-proliferation obligations.
- It also ensures that any future bilateral trade in other nuclear-related material or items for civil use will also be protected.
- The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement has been signed during the summit that should enhance defence cooperation and ease the conduct of large-scale joint military exercises.
- There is a technical Agreement on White Shipping Information Exchange.
- Recently Australia and India conducted AUSINDEX,their largest bilateral naval exercise, and there are further developments on the anvil, including Australia’s permanent inclusion in the Malabar exercise with Japan.
- In 2018, Indian Air Force participated for the first time in the Exercise Pitch Blackin Australia. The third edition of AUSTRAHIND(Special Forces of Army Exercise) was held in September 2018.
- A broader maritime cooperation agreement with a focus on Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) is also in the works and Australia has agreed to post a Liaison Officer at the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) at Gurugram.
- Under the New-Colombo Plan of Australian government, 900 Australian undergraduates have studied and completed internships in India during the period 2015-16
- The Indian community in Australia has the population of nearly half a million (2.1 % of the population), and another over 1,50,000 persons of Indian descent immigrated from other countries (Fiji, Malaysia, Kenya and South Africa).
- India is one of the top sources of skilled immigrants to Australia.
- A Joint Working Group on Energy and Minerals was established in 1999 to expand bilateral relationship in the energy and resources sector. The 8th JWG meeting held in New Delhi in June 2013.
- As energy is one of the central pillars of economic cooperation, both sides agreed during the visit of our Prime Minister to Australia in November 2014 to cooperate on transfer of clean coal technology and welcomed Australia’s desire to upgrade the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad.
Science and Technology
- An Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF), which was established in 2006, supports scientists in India and Australia to collaborate on leading-edge research. AISRF consists of India Australia Biotechnology Fund; India-Australia Science & Technology Fund; Grand Challenge Fund and Fellowship Schemes.
- The fund, where each side contributes equally, supports large-scale research projects designed to deliver practical solutions, focusing on energy, food and water security, health and the environment. Joint Committees on S&T and Biotechnology have been established to administer the Fund.
- The Australian side is also cooperating in our Clean Ganga Project as agreed during visit of our PM to Australia in 2014.
- Secretary (Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation) led a delegation to Australia during 19-25 June 2016 for bilateral cooperation on water resource management, including discussion on Ganga Rejuvenation.
- A four-member delegation led by Shri U. P. Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation visited Canberra for attending 4th India-Australia JWG Meeting on July 11, 2018.
- Agreement on Cyber and Cyber-Enabled Critical Technology was signed.
An India Economic Strategy to 2035
- Australia’s Prime Minister has announced implementation of “An India Economic Strategy to 2035”, a vision document that will shape India-Australia bilateral ties.
- It is based on three-pillar strategy- Economic ties, Geostrategic Engagement and Rethinking Culture-thrust on soft power diplomacy.
- The focus of this report is on building a sustainable long-term India economic strategy.
- The report identifies 10 sectors and 10 states in an evolving Indian market where Australia has competitive advantages, and where it should focus its efforts. These are divided into a flagship sector (education), three lead sectors (agribusiness, resources, and tourism) and six promising sectors (energy, health, financial services, infrastructure, sport, science and innovation).
Significance of the Relations
- Australia is one of the few countries that has managed to combat COVID-19 so far through “controlled adaptation” by which the coronavirus has been suppressed to very low levels. Two of the leaders of this great Australia-wide effort are Indian-born scientists.
- From farming practices through food processing, supply and distribution to consumers, the Australian agribusiness sector has the research and development (R&D) capacity, experience and technical knowledge to help India’s food industry improve supply chain productivity and sustainability and meet the challenges of shifting consumption patterns.
- Australia is the 13th largest economy in the world, following closely behind Russia which stands at $1.6 trillion.
- Australia is rich in natural resources that India’s growing economy needs.
- It also has huge reservoirs of strength in higher education, scientific and technological research.
- The dominance of Indo-Pacific countries in India’s trade profile: Fostering deeper integration between India and Australia will provide the necessary impetus to the immense growth potential of the trade blocs in this region.
- The two countries also have increasingly common military platforms as India’s defence purchases from the U.S. continue to grow.
- Australia has deep economic, political and security connections with the ASEAN and a strategic partnership with one of the leading non-aligned nations, Indonesia. Both nations can leverage their equation with ASEAN to contain China.
- The Indo-Pacific region has the potential to facilitate connectivity and trade between India and Australia.
- Being geographically more proximate than the US or Japan, India and Australia can emerge as leading forces for the Quad.
- The promise ofDTC-CPG (direct to consumer; consumer packaged goods) which could transform global supply chains. Here too there is much room for collaboration and new thinking.
- International cooperation
- India and 62 other countries have backed a draft resolution led by Australia and the EU to ‘identify the zoonotic source’ of Covid-19 and its ‘route of introduction’ to humans.
- Australia supports India’s candidature in an expanded UN Security Council.
- Both India and Australia are members of the Commonwealth, IORA, ASEAN Regional Forum, Asia Pacific Partnership on Climate and Clean Development, and have participated in the East Asia Summits.
- Australia is an important player in APEC and supports India’s membership of the organisation. In 2008, Australia became an Observer in SAARC.
- Both countries have also been cooperating as members of the Five Interested Parties (FIP) in the WTO context.
- India’s trade deficit with Australia has been increasing since 2001-02 due to India-Australia Free Trade Agreement. It is also a contentious issue in the ongoing RCEP negotiations which India left.
- India’s desire for visa reforms in Australia, which would permit more Indian workers to seek employment in Australia, remains unmet. India wants greater free movement and relaxed visa norms for its IT professionals, on which Australia is reluctant. Australia and India are yet to nurture a common bilateral ground to figure out the basis of their cooperation.
- The formation of the Japan–America–India (JAI) partnership at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires in 2018 is cause for Australian concern. India’s unwillingness to invite Australia to participate in the Malabar naval exercise, despite Australian lobbying, has sparked speculation over the fate of the Quadrilateral Consultative Dialogue (the ‘Quad) involving India, Australia, Japan and the United States.
- Building consensus on non-nuclear proliferation and disarmament has been a major hurdle given India’s status as a nuclear power. Trade and maritime security on the other hand seem the most viable points of collaboration. Although a defence agreement was signed in 2014, the defence relationship has yet to develop fully.
- Although security has received a lot of significance in the relationship, in practice Australia-India defence cooperation remains relatively undeveloped. There are a considerable number of defence and security dialogues between the two countries, but none has been translated into more substantive cooperation.
- Increasing Racist attacks on Indians in Australia has been a major issue. The relationship was further strained over the attacks on Indian students studying in Melbourne, and the resulting media coverage caused serious damage to Australia’s standing in India.
Need of the Hour
- Upgradation of 2+2 talks. In addition, it may be prudent too for New Delhi and Canberra to elevate the ‘two plus two’ format for talks from the Secretary level to the level of Foreign and Defence Ministers.
- Utilising current innovations in digital trade; such digitisation of economic activities has changed the landscape of trade, enhancing associations between economies and, in particular, South-South flows.
- Removal of trade barriers would lead to an increase in the exports of these commodities, although the increasing number of disputes at the WTO with regard to the Australian sector can act as a serious impediment.
- 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.
- It is evident in policy areas such as maritime security, climate change, energy security, law enforcement, governance and the politics of security institutions.
- Engaging Indonesia, Japan, France and Britain for securing Indo-Pacific
- An ‘engage and balance’ China strategy is the best alternative to the dead end of containment. The role of the US is of particular importance as it has recently been a driver of efforts towards bringing similarly aligned states in counterbalancing China.
- Their ties are extremely important for the Indo-Pacific region which is in flux. They stand out for their solemn commitment towards democratic values, international peace, rule of law, development and multiculturalism.
‘INDIA-AUSTRALIA CIRCULAR ECONOMY HACKATHON (I-ACE)’
- Recently, AIM (Atal Innovation Mission), in association with CSIRO, is organizing a two-day hackathon on circular economy, ‘India–Australia Circular Economy Hackathon (I-ACE)’.
- The idea of I-ACE was conceived during a virtual summit on 4 June, between the Indian and Australian prime ministers, exploring innovative ways to boost circular economy in India and Australia.
- I-ACE will focus on identification and development of innovative technology solutions by bright-minded students, startups and MSMEs of both nations.
- Shortlisted students and startups/MSMEs will be called for the hackathon, where two winners (one student and one startup/MSME) per theme from each country will be announced at an award ceremony
The four key themes for the hackathon are as follows:
- Innovation in packaging reducing packaging waste
- Innovation in food supply chains avoiding waste
- Creating opportunities for plastic waste reduction
- Recycling critical energy metals and e-waste
- A very important initiative to make our economy less resource intensive and ensure our economic growth is ecologically compatible.
- India and Australia can align research and developmental efforts to achieve more at a challenging time in the history of mankind.
- India and Australia have had a strong and productive bilateral partnership since a decade and their collaborations across a broad range of areas have yielded significant results.
- Circular Economy can lead to the emergence of more sustainable production and consumption patterns, thus providing opportunities for developed and developing countries to achieve economic growth and inclusive and sustainable industrial development (ISID) in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
- The transition towards a circular economy requires systematic innovations including new innovative financing models, partnerships, business models and close integration of industry 4.0
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