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India- Australia Relations

  • Published
    21st Jun, 2022

The Australian deputy Prime Minister is to visit India from June 20 to 23, considering India and Australia as closest security partners.

  • The Indian government is set to revitalise Australia’s historical engagement across Indo-pacific.
  • Ties between India and Australia started right from the time when European settlement began in Australia.
  • When New South Wales was founded as a penal colony, all trade with the colony was controlled by the British East India Company.
  • Before the Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901, many migrant workers and labourers were taken from the Indian subcontinent to Australia.
  • India established a Trade Office in Sydney in 1941.
  • After independence, in 1950, Robert Menzies became the first Australian Prime Minister to visit India. He had earlier supported India’s admission into the Commonwealth as a republic.
  • In 2009, a ‘Strategic Partnership’ was established between the two countries and relations have significantly expanded since then.
  • In 2013, A K Antony became the first-ever Indian Defence Minister to visit Australia. The current PM Narendra Modi visited Australia in November 2014, a few months after he was appointed the PM.

India-Australia ties

  • People-to-people ties: There are many citizens in Australia with Indian origins. Out of the country’s 24 million people, about half a million are of Indian origin.
    • The fastest-growing language in Australia is Punjabi.
    • As of 2017, more than 60000 students from India are studying in Australia.
    • More than 2 lakh Indians visit Australia every year.
  • Economic Relations: As of the year 2016, the bilateral trade between the two nations is worth $21.9 billion. 
    • India is Australia’s largest export market for gold and chickpeas, the second-largest market for coal and copper ores and the third-largest market for lead and wool.
    • Four products – coal, non-monetary gold, copper ores & concentrates and petroleum – accounted for over 80 per cent of India’s imports from Australia, with coal and gold being the dominant imports in 2011-12.
    • India is Australia’s tenth largest trading partner and the fifth-largest export market.
  • Military Relations: A joint naval exercise called AUSINDEXis carried out between India and Australia every year.
    • In 2007, Australia was a participant in the Malabar Exercise which is an annual trilateral naval exercise between India, the USA and Japan.

Significance of Indo-pacific region for both India and Australia

  • The reason being maritime routes, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific provide the sea lanes.
  • Majority of the world’s trade passes through these oceans.
  • The term ‘Indo-Pacific’ is interpreted differently by different stakeholders.
    • India considers the region as an inclusive, open, integrated and balanced space. India continuously emphasises on strategic inter-connections, common challenges and opportunities between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.
    • The U.S. considers it to be a free and open Indo-Pacific, highlighting the importance of rules or norms of conduct in the region, thus trying to contain the role of China in the region.
    • The ASEAN countries look at Indo-Pacific as a consociational model, thus bringing in China not only for the sake of giving it some stake holdership but looking for ways to cooperate with it in the region.

India’s perspective

  • A lot of India’s special partners, the US, Australia, Japan and Indonesia actually look at Indo-Pacific as Asia Pacific plus India.
  • They try to embed India into the strategic dynamic of Asia Pacific.
  • They want India’s presence in the South China Sea, East China Sea, basically to counter China.
  • India however, seeks to cooperate for architecture for peace and security in the region.
  • The common prosperity and security require the countries to evolve, through dialogue, a common rules-based order for the region. For India, Indo-Pacific stands for a free, open, inclusive region.
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