India, Australia need each other for open, stable Indo-Pacific: Australian envoy | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

India, Australia need each other for open, stable Indo-Pacific: Australian envoy

Dec 13, 2023 07:32 PM IST

Among the members of the Quad, India’s ties with Australia have witnessed rapid growth in recent years, and the two sides now have a 2+2 dialogue of their defence

India and Australia need each other to preserve an open and stable Indo-Pacific at a time when China is engaged in the largest military build-up since World War 2 without transparency or reassurance about its intentions, Australian envoy Philip Green said on Wednesday.

Australian envoy Philip Green (Twitter Photo)
Australian envoy Philip Green (Twitter Photo)

Green noted that the India-Australia relationship has gone from strength to strength in the past decade, with the two sides elevating ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership and signing an interim trade deal and Australia joining the Malabar naval exercise that features the other members of Quad – India, Japan and the US.

The Australian high commissioner, speaking on the theme of “Trajectories and end points: Australia-India relations in 2023” at an event organised by Asia Society Policy Insitute, said the two countries are now focused on finalising a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) to build on the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) signed in 2022.

Referring to the strategic alignment between India and Australia due to shared interests, Green said countries in the region are grappling with challenging times as global military expenditure grows without measures to prevent conflict.

“China’s military build-up is now the largest of any country since the end of World War 2. This build-up is occurring without transparency or reassurance to the region about its intent,” he said.

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There has also been an increase in strategic competition in the economic and diplomatic domains, as well as the use of “coercive trade measures, political interference and disinformation”. Such actions by some countries encroach on the ability of others to exercise their sovereignty and decide their destinies, said Green.

“And if India and Australia want to preserve an open, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific, we need each other. We see the region the same way, we share the same goals, and we both know what needs to be done,” Green said, adding the two countries have a responsibility to act “to prevent, but also prepare for the worst-case scenarios”.

Among the members of the Quad, India’s ties with Australia have witnessed rapid growth in recent years, and the two sides now have a 2+2 dialogue of their defence and foreign ministers and have signed an agreement that allows reciprocal access to military bases for logistics. They have also ramped up military exchanges and exercises.

Green spoke of these changes, referring to the sheer pace of change in the bilateral trajectory over the past five years while Australia’s relations with the US and Japan had developed over decades. “In Australia’s history, we have never seen such a rapid ramp-up,” he said.

While Australia has begun a generational reinvestment in the size and capability of its armed forces, including the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines, the country also needs partners to achieve strategic balance. “And India is an indispensable partner, critical for achieving the sort of strategic equilibrium that we need,” he said.

Green said two-way trade has grown by more than 50% in the past five years, and the proposed CECA will boost mineral supply chains. “We have had some good rounds of negotiation. We have a lot of text settled...We are ready to conclude our second phase in due course – but our focus will be on ambition – a good deal, not any deal,” he said.

Australia’s critical minerals, including more than half the world’s reserves of lithium, can help drive India’s plans to install 500 GW of renewable energy by 2030, produce five million tonnes of green hydrogen and become a global leader in electric vehicles and battery manufacturing, he said.

In education, the number of Indian students enrolled in Australian courses is 10 times higher than it was in 2002 and Australia’s Deakin and Wollongong Universities will become the first foreign varsities to set up campuses in India next year.

Green also referred to cooperation within Quad, which had gone from being a loose and informal forum for officials in 2019 to holding three leaders’ summits. “In only a few years, we’ve developed a shared vision, a positive agenda, and we’re getting stuff done. We’re strengthening pandemic preparedness, to detect and respond to emerging disease outbreaks in Southeast Asia,” he said.

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