From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Malabar naval exercise
Mains level : Paper 2- India-Australia relations
A few days ago, India’s Defence Minister and External Affairs Minister held the inaugural ‘2+2’ talks with their Australian counterparts.
Transforming relations between India-Australia
- 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.
- Both draw their congruence from a rule-based international order, believe in inclusive economic integration in the Indo-Pacific region, and face challenges from a belligerent China.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison elevated their bilateral strategic partnership to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in June 2020.
- Growing convergence on issues: There is a growing convergence of views on geo-strategic and geo-economic issues.
- The convergence is 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.
- Bilateral security cooperation: Given their common security challenges and in order to enhance regional security architecture, both countries have intensified bilateral security cooperation.
- Further, elevation of their ‘2+2’ Foreign and Defence Secretaries’ Dialogue to the ministerial level emphasises the positive trajectory of their transforming relations.
- They have also stepped up security dialogue with key partner-countries to deepen coordination in areas where security interests are mutual.
- The Malabar naval exercise by the Quad (Australia, India, Japan, the U.S.) is a step in this direction.
- Partnership with like-minded countries: Beyond bilateralism, both countries are also entering into partnerships with like-minded countries, including Indonesia, Japan and France, in a trilateral framework.
- Trade ties: Trading between India and Australia has seen remarkable growth in recent years.
- Two-way trade between them was valued at $24.4 billion in 2020.
- Trade is rapidly growing and encompasses agribusiness, infrastructure, healthcare, energy and mining, education, artificial intelligence, big data and fintech.
- An early harvest agreement by December will pave the way for an early conclusion of a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement between both countries.
Issues in deeper economic integration
- High tariff on agri products in India: India has a high tariff for agriculture and dairy products which makes it difficult for Australian exporters to export these items to India.
- Non-tariff barrier in Australia: At the same time, India faces non-tariff barriers and its skilled professionals in the Australian labour market face discrimination.
Consider the question “A growing convergence of views on geo-strategic and geo-economic issues between Indian and Australia makes it imperative to forge a partnership guided by principles with a humane approach. Comment.”
The Quad has gained momentum in recent months. The time is ripe for these countries to deliberate on a ‘Quad+’ framework. 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.