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Introduction

India and Australia share several similarities that serve as the foundation for closer cooperation and multifaceted interaction along the lines of what India has developed with other Western countries. Both are strong, vibrant democracies that are secular and multicultural.

Since India’s economic reforms in the 1990s, the relationship has grown in strength and importance, and it has made rapid progress in all areas, including trade, energy and mining, science and technology, information technology, education, and defence.

Body 

Convergence in India and Australia

  • Rule of law: Aside from being two English-speaking, multicultural federal democracies that believe in and respect the rule of law, the United States and Canada
  • Strategic interest: Both have a strategic interest in maintaining balance in the Indo-Pacific and ensuring that no single hegemonic power dominates the region.
  • Skilled migrants: Furthermore, Indians are now Australia’s largest source of skilled migrants.
  • Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA): The already strong economic relationship could be transformed if the promise of the new Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) is fulfilled.

Partners in trade and strategic allies

  • Convergence: Both democracies share concerns about Chinese aggression and assertive foreign policy, which has brought them closer together. Both share a vision of an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, inclusive, and governed by rules.
    • Both are members of QUAD, as well as the proposed Supply Chain Resilience Initiative.
    • Australia’s Pacific Step Up and India’s Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) renew their South Pacific cooperation.
  • Economic relations: Bilateral goods and services trade between the two was $30.3 billion in 2018-19, with $30.7 billion in two-way investment.
    • In 2018, Australia announced the implementation of “An India Economic Strategy to 2035,” a vision document aimed at shaping India-Australia bilateral relations.
    • India is also working on a similar Australia Economic Strategy Paper (AES).
    • This was following the fallout from Australia and China.
  • Progress following the fallout with China: Raised the “2+2” engagement to the level of Foreign and Defence Ministers (from secretary level), with strategic discussions taking place every two years. India already has such a mechanism in place with the United States and Japan.
    • Both share a vision of a free, open, inclusive, and rule-based Indo-Pacific region.
    • Both are members of QUAD, as well as the proposed Supply Chain Resilience Initiative.
    • Australia’s Pacific Step Up and India’s Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) renew their South Pacific cooperation.
  • Technology and Research: The two countries are developing a new and renewable energy partnership to aid in the development of technologies such as green hydrogen and ultra-low-cost solar.
    • Australia is also funding research and investment to unlock critical minerals from Australia for Indian advanced manufacturing.
  • Defense and security cooperation: In 2009, both signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement, which included a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation.
    • A Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement was signed between the two countries in 2014, allowing India to secure uranium from Australia.
  • The Limits of India-Australia Ties
  • The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) remains unresolved after nine rounds of negotiations.
  • India has withdrawn from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Among other things, India and Australia were unable to reach an agreement on market access for agricultural and dairy products.
  • Australia’s economy is heavily dependent on China, with China accounting for 26% of Australia’s trade with the rest of the world.
  • The prospects for bilateral relations are recognised in both countries as strategically useful, economically productive, and aligned with each other’s new agenda.
    • However, it is acknowledged that the natural synergy has not been fully utilised.
    • Countries should complete CECA as soon as possible in order to capitalise on economic opportunities.

The way forward

  • Strengthening shared framework: While this is the first Dialogue since 2019, two nations have grown closer together by strengthening shared framework for regional security, promoting business and commercial opportunities, and strengthening bilateral and multilateral people-to-people links.
  • Fifth largest global economy: As India celebrates its 75th anniversary of independence and surpasses the United Kingdom as the world’s fifth largest economy, the momentum surrounding the fifth Australia-India Leadership Dialogue and the bilateral fruit it may bear should not be underestimated.
  • Diplomatic manoeuvring and economic and military assertiveness: Appropriate diplomatic manoeuvring and economic and military assertiveness are critical for implementing India’s interests in the Indo-Pacific region, as is leveraging space as a building block for a multipolar world order.
  • Rule-based multipolar order: India believes that it should collaborate with other Indo-Pacific countries to manage a rules-based multipolar regional order that prevents any single power from dominating the region or its waterways.

Conclusion

Based on several commonalities and closely aligned values in the principles of democracy, liberty, the rule of law, human rights, freedom of speech, free press, and multiculturalism, both parties must strengthen their bilateral relationship by expanding their engagement in various sectors such as the defence industry and commercial cyber activity, among others.