Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

The virtual summit between Indian Prime Minister Modi and the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, in June 2020 has taken some big steps to elevate the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Introduction

  • Over the last decade there has been a steady improvement in the quality and intensity of the political, commercial, cultural, educational and technological engagement between India and Australia.
  • The improvement in relations is reinforced by the Indian diaspora (now 7,00,000 strong in a nation of just 25 million.)

Highlights of the concerns discussed in the meeting

  • Defence and security cooperation have been at the core of the outcomes from the deliberations between the two leaders: reasons being assertiveness of a rising China and the uncertain trajectory of America.
  • Both India and Australia have been stepping up their strategic collaboration with other key nations in the region, including Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia.
  • A major highlight of the summit meeting was the declaration on the shared vision for securing the troubled waters of the Indo-Pacific: leading to a mutual logistics support agreement that offers the armed forces of the two nations reciprocal access to each other’s military facilities and facilitates seamless cooperation across the high seas.
  • There was another agreement for cooperation in cyber and cyber-enabled critical technology domains.

Lack in trade agreements

  • While the focus on security is both necessary and urgent, there is no escaping the big gap between the two leaders on regional trade agreements.
  • It is important to note that while India rejected the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) Australia is big supporter of RCEP.
  • However, India and Australia did agree to renew stalled negotiations on bilateral trade.
  • India has declared its interest in negotiating bilateral trade with a number of like-minded countries like the US and Europe.

Analysis: 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:

  • In 2008, the Nuclear Suppliers Group had granted a waiver to India, leading to Australia lifting its uranium ban against the NPT non-signatories
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • India is among the largest contributors to Australia’s population growth. There is a massive influx of Indian students and tourists to Australia.

-Source: Indian Express

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