'Answer to almost every question about China is India': Australia’s Tony Abbott
A free trade agreement between India and Australia would be an important sign of the “democratic world’s tilt away from China”, Australian special trade envoy Tony Abbott said on Monday. In an opinion piece in The Australian newspaper, Abbott said the “answer to almost every question about China is India.” “With the world’s other emerging superpower becoming more belligerent almost by the day, it’s in everyone’s interests that India take its rightful place among the nations as quickly as possible,” Abbott, who visited India last week, wrote.
“Because trade deals are about politics as much as economics, a swift deal between India and Australia would be an important sign of the democratic world’s tilt away from China, as well as boosting the long-term prosperity of both our countries,” he added.
As Australia's prime minister, Abbott oversaw a bilateral free trade deal with China, which took effect in 2015 and also hosted a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping a year before that. However, after Australia banned Chinese telecom giant Huawei from major communications infrastructure projects and called for an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus, ties between Beijing and Canberra have soured.
Abbott, also a former prime minister, stressed that Australia needed drastically to move away from Beijing and argued that India was a “natural partner” to his country. “India and Australia are like-minded democracies whose relationship had been underdeveloped, at least until Narendra Modi became India’s prime minister,” he said.
"India and Australia are like-minded democracies whose relationship had been under-developed, at least until Narendra Modi became India's Prime Minister. Under Modi, India has revived the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, and the first in-person Quad summit is expected before the end of the year," he said.
"Under Modi, India has invited Australia to join the annual Malabar naval exercises that will soon involve India, the United States, Japan, Australia and also the United Kingdom's visiting carrier strike group led by the Royal Navy's new flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth. It will be an impressive show of strength, demonstrating the democracies' commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific," he added.
India, Abbott pointed out, is Australia's seventh-biggest trade partner with an annual trade turnover of about $30 billion and said that despite being hampered by tariffs and mutual perceptions that neither country is always a good place to do business. He also said the problem is that China's “daunting power is a consequence of the free world's decision to invite a communist dictatorship into global trading networks.”
“China has exploited the West’s goodwill and wishful thinking to steal our technology and undercut our industries; and, in the process, become a much more powerful competitor than the old Soviet Union ever was, because it’s now a first-rate economy that’s rapidly developing a military to match; and spoiling for a fight over Taiwan, a pluralist democracy of 25 million that’s living proof there’s no totalitarian gene in the Chinese DNA,” Abbott added.
Abbott met PM Modi last Thursday and discussed ways to further strengthen bilateral trade, investment and economic cooperation to realise the full potential of the India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). They emphasised that enhanced economic cooperation between India and Australia would help the two countries in realising their shared vision of a stable, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.