Foreign Policy Watch: India-Australia

Strengthening India-Australia Relations: A Dynamic Partnership


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: India and Australia growing relationships


Central Idea

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Australia highlights the significance India attaches to its bilateral relationship with Australia, despite the cancellation of the Quad Summit meeting in Sydney. The transformation of this relationship over the past decade, coupled with its broad bipartisan support in Australia, demonstrates the establishment of a new chapter in India-Australia ties.

India-Australia Relations: A Backgrounder

  • The India-Australia bilateral relationship has undergone evolution in recent years, developing along a positive track, into a friendly partnership.
  • The two nations have much in common, underpinned by shared values of a pluralistic, Westminster-style democracies, Commonwealth traditions, expanding economic engagement etc.
  • Several commonalities include strong, vibrant, secular and multicultural democracies, free press, independent judicial system and English language.

Historical Perspective

  • The historical ties between India and Australia started immediately following European settlement in Australia from 1788.
  • All trade, to and fro from the penal colony of New South Wales was controlled by the British East India Company through Kolkata.
  • India and Australia established diplomatic relations in the pre-Independence period, with the establishment of India Trade Office in Sydney in 1941.
  • The end of the Cold War and simultaneously, India’s decision to launch major economic reforms in 1991 provided the first positive move towards development of bilateral ties.

What is the Significance of this upcoming visit?

  • Strengthening Bilateral Relations: The visit reaffirms the commitment of both India and Australia to further strengthen their bilateral relationship. It provides an opportunity for high-level engagements, discussions, and collaborations on various issues of mutual interest.
  • Enhancing Economic Cooperation: The visit can pave the way for boosting economic cooperation between India and Australia. It provides a platform to explore new avenues for trade, investment, and technological collaboration, benefiting both economies and creating business opportunities.
  • Showcasing Commitment to the Indo-Pacific Region: Prime Minister’s visit to Australia will demonstrates the commitment of both countries to the Indo-Pacific region’s peace, stability, and development. It reinforces the role of India and Australia as significant stakeholders in the region.
  • Collaboration on Strategic and Security Issues: The visit presents an opportunity to discuss and collaborate on strategic and security issues, including maritime security, counterterrorism, cybersecurity, and defense cooperation. This will contribute to regional stability and address common security challenges.
  • Promoting People-to-People Connections: People-to-people interactions and cultural exchanges are crucial for fostering closer ties between nations. Prime Minister Modi’s visit will promote people-to-people connections, strengthen the Indian diaspora’s engagement, and enhance cultural understanding between India and Australia.

The growing partnership between India and Australia

  • Enhanced Bilateral Engagements: The frequency of high-level visits and interactions between the leaders of India and Australia has increased, showcasing the importance both countries place on their bilateral relationship.
  • Multilateral Collaboration: India and Australia collaborate closely in various multilateral forums such as the Quad, G7, East Asia Summit, G20, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association. They address important regional issues, including maritime domain awareness, supply chain resilience, climate change, and food and energy security.
  • Strategic Cooperation: Both nations recognize the need to build secure and resilient supply chains. They focus on strategic areas such as clean energy, electric vehicles, semiconductors, aerospace, and defense, fostering collaboration and joint initiatives.
  • Space Collaboration: Space cooperation has gained prominence in the India-Australia partnership. Australia participates in India’s Gaganyaan Space Programme, and the International Space Investment grants program encourages collaboration in the space sector.
  • Educational Ties: Australia is a preferred destination for Indian students, with a large number of Indian students studying there. Efforts are being made to address challenges related to student mobility, visa backlogs, and research collaboration, strengthening educational ties between the two countries.
  • People-to-People Linkages: Cultural exchanges, diaspora connectivity, and people-to-people contacts play a crucial role in strengthening the partnership. Initiatives like the opening of a new consulate in Bengaluru and the establishment of a center for Australia-India relations in Sydney contribute to fostering cultural linkages.
  • Economic Cooperation: The focus is on expanding economic ties and trade relations. Efforts are being made to increase the current trading partnership, setting clear targets to elevate it by 2030. Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Trade Agreement discussions are underway to deepen economic cooperation.
  • Regional Stability: India and Australia, along with other Quad members, work together to ensure peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. They address regional challenges and maintain a rules-based order.
  • Counterbalance to China: The India-Australia partnership is seen as a counterweight to China’s non-rules-based approach in the region. It provides a strategic balance and promotes a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The India-Australia partnership: Opportunities for further collaboration and growth

  • Trade and Investment: There is immense potential to expand bilateral trade and investment between India and Australia. Both countries can explore new sectors and avenues for collaboration, including technology, renewable energy, infrastructure, agriculture, healthcare, and manufacturing. Initiatives like the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) can further facilitate trade and investment flows.
  • Innovation and Technology: India’s thriving tech ecosystem and Australia’s advanced research and development capabilities present opportunities for collaboration in innovation and technology-driven sectors. Joint research projects, technology transfer, and startup collaborations can foster mutual growth and innovation.
  • Defense and Security: The defense and security collaboration between India and Australia can be further strengthened. Opportunities exist for joint military exercises, defense equipment co-production, technology-sharing, and intelligence cooperation. Collaborative efforts can contribute to maritime security, counterterrorism, and regional stability.
  • Education and Research: The education sector offers opportunities for deeper collaboration, including student exchanges, joint research programs, and faculty exchanges. Strengthening academic ties can enhance cultural understanding and promote knowledge sharing between institutions in both countries.
  • Sustainable Development and Climate Change: Both India and Australia face significant challenges related to sustainable development and climate change. Collaborative efforts in renewable energy, climate adaptation, and environmental conservation can address common concerns and promote sustainable development practices.
  • Regional Engagement: India and Australia can leverage their partnership to enhance regional engagement and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. By working together in multilateral forums such as the Quad, ASEAN, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association, they can promote a rules-based order, regional stability, and prosperity.
  • Health and Biotechnology: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of collaboration in health and biotechnology. Joint research on vaccines, healthcare innovations, and disease prevention can strengthen public health systems and contribute to global health security.


  • India and Australia have transcended past misperceptions and established a promising partnership that holds tremendous potential in the 21st century. As Prime Minister Menzies’ decision in 1955 remains a relic of the past, India and Australia are committed to nurturing a vibrant and enduring partnership, solidifying their place as key actors in the global arena.

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What India gains from FTA with Australia?


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