Why in news?

India and Australia will face common challenges in the Indo-Pacific as the COVID-19 pandemic is stretching much of the world’s governmental capacity, said Australian High Commissioner-designate.

He called for greater cooperation especially stressing on trilateral cooperation between India, Australia and Indonesia.

What was said?

  • As a starting point, we should build on last year’s successful trilateral maritime security workshop with Indonesia to identify new ways that our three countries can collaborate to be the best possible custodians of the Indian Ocean.
  • The trilateral cooperation had been growing and would continue to be important as we considered the implications of COVID-19 for Indo-Pacific regional order.
  • The High Commissioner designate also referred to the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region which is emerging as a regional hub for monitoring maritime movements and cooperation.
  • He also noted the increasingly common platforms operated by the two militaries acquired from the U.S., the P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, C-17 and C-130 transport aircraft, and India’s soon-to-be-acquired MH-60 Romeo multi-role helicopters.

Interoperability

  • Even allowing for COVID, the Indo-Pacific would continue to be the engine of the global economy in the decades to come.
  • On enhancing Indian and Australian bilateral cooperation: we can make defence facilities available to each other to expand our militaries’ respective operational reach.

India – Australia Relations, Issues in the past

  1. The historical ties between India and Australia initiated following the European settlement in Australia from 1788.
  2. Australia and India for the first time established diplomatic relations in the pre-Independence period, when the Consulate General of India was first opened as a Trade Office in Sydney in 1941.
  3. Following India’s independence, the Australian leaders advocated the British counterparts to retain the strategically important Andaman and the Nicobar Islands within the British Empire.
  4. During the Cold War, Australia had decided to be a close ally of the US, while India initially opted for Non-Alignment.
  5. Then there was the Pakistan factor. Australia’s attempts to act as the mediator between India and Pakistan in the 1940s and 1950s were not taken well by New Delhi.
  6. Over time, during the Cold War era, Australia opted for close ties with Pakistan – a close ally of the US – instead of India.
  7. Following the above – India-Australia relations touched a historic low when the Australian Government condemned India’s 1998 nuclear tests.
  8. Another issue that plagued the bilateral ties was the lack of people-to-people ties due to the “White Australia” policy that banned immigration from Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Improvements began when:

  1. In 2008, the Nuclear Suppliers Group had granted a waiver to India, leading to Australia lifting its uranium ban against the NPT non-signatories
  2. In 2014 Australia signed a uranium supply deal with India, the first of its kind with a country that is a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in recognition of India’s “impeccable” non-proliferation record it became evident what type of relation Australia wanted with India.
  3. The end of the Cold War and India’s decision to launch major economic reforms in 1991 ensured the development of closer ties between the two nations.
  4. India is among the largest contributors to Australia’s population growth. There is a massive influx of Indian students and tourists to Australia.
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