India and Australia are finally acting like the natural partners they are 

News: Indian-Australian PM had a virtual summit. Further, a historic free trade agreement is going to be signed between both the countries. 

The free trade negotiations were being carried out for a decade. The negotiation started since May 2011.  The discussions were restarted in June 2020 when India-and Australia established a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. 

Important aspects in Indo-Australia relation

Both India (Part of South Asian Subcontinent) and Australia split from the same supercontinent in the geological history.   

Today, India and Australia represent a partnership with similarities in interests and values. For example,

– Both are multicultural societies and federal democracies

– Both are apprehensive about Chinese hegemonic rise.

– Both are concerned about stability in the Indo-Pacific

What are the issues with Indo-Australia Relations? 

The challenge of economic integration still remains. 

There are predictions about the demise of the Quad. It is because the central theatre of conflict has moved to Europe.

India’s perceived “neutrality” over the war in Ukraine has been taken seriously by west.

Is ETCA compliant to WTO rules? 

The ECTA deal is apparently fully in compliance with WTO rules and Article 24 of GATT. This allows countries to grant special treatment to one another by establishing a free-trade association, provided that “(1) duties and other trade restrictions would be eliminated on substantially all the trade among the participants, (2) the elimination of internal barriers occurred within a reasonable length of time….”  

What is the significance of the agreement to India?

It will give a boost to India’s labour-intensive manufacturing sector, pharma, textile, gemstone and jewellery sectors.  

Indian students in Australia will find an easier pathway to employment. There will be greater ease of visa for a range of skilled human capital from India in demand in Australia, including chefs and yoga instructors. 

In addition, Australian coal will get relatively unrestrained access to India. 

What is the way forward?

The ECTA can act as a significant turning point for India’s foreign policy in terms of geo-strategy as well as geo-economics.  

Both countries have stated to cooperate in areas like science and technology, climate change, defence, people-to-people ties, joint surveillance and real-time intelligence sharing among others.  

Source: The post is based on an article “India and Australia are finally acting like the natural partners they are” published in The Hindu on 31st March 2022. 

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