Context

  • Australia and India share converging interests and similar outlooks on the strategic changes taking place in the Indo-Pacific region and globally.

Building ties

  • Building on our historic ties, cultural links and extensive people-to-people connections, our bilateral relationship is strengthening.
  • India is Australia’s ninth largest trading partner, with boundless potential for growth.
  • Our Indian-origin residents are the fourth largest group of overseas-born Australians, representing close to 2% of our total population.
  • They make a strong contribution to our country across all fields — business, science and medicine, education, arts and culture and sports.

Recent developments

  • In June 2017, India demonstrated strong naval ties when the Australia-India Exercise (AUSINDEX) was conducted for the second time, this time off Australia’s west coast.
  • Strategic competition is leading to unilateral action.
  • Rising nationalism is leading to a narrower conception of national interests, and a more transactional approach to negotiations.
  • Australia is determined to strengthen regional prosperity by maintaining India’s open, integrated regional economy, underpinned by liberalized trade and investment.
  • Australia and other countries in the region have opened economies to one another, and have integrated trade, production and investment in a dynamic regional economy, to the benefit of all.
  • India’s growing economic weight has the potential to help lift standards of living in India as well as contribute to prosperity in the wider Indo-Pacific.

A new phase of investment

  • Australia welcomes India’s ambitious reform agenda, including the recent introduction of a Goods and Services Tax.
  • Economic growth and prosperity in the region will also require continued investment in infrastructure.
  • The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which Australia and India joined as founding members has a role to play in funding infrastructure.
  • To ensure these infrastructure investments are cost-effective and economically viable, competition, transparency and accountability in decision-making are of critical importance.
  • India is also fully committed to supporting the role of key regional institutions and to strengthening collective leadership.
  • India and Australia need to increase our bilateral cooperation and our collective efforts with other like-minded countries.
  • Together India and Australia can shape a future region in which strong and effective rules and open markets deliver lasting peace and prosperity free markets and free people.

India – Australia 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.

India – Australia common interest

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

  • 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.

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.

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.

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
  • The Australia-India Council (AIC) was established by the Australian Government in May 1992 to broaden and deepen Australia-India relations through contacts and exchanges in a range of fields that promote mutual awareness and understanding. The AIC is a non-statutory body with a Chairman and a Board appointed by the Government on a part-time basis for three years. The AIC is serviced by a secretariat in Canberra, while the Australian High Commission in New Delhi manages the AIC’s activities in India.

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.
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