Foreign Relations - India
The 'Quad' countries — Japan, the US, India and Australia - has become increasingly alarmed at what were considered as Beijing ignoring international laws. The first Quadrilateral meeting took place in New York in 2019, with the group planning to hold such talks annually. Tokyo and Washington have pushed hard to bring together like-minded countries that share Japan's concerns about China's growing assertiveness and influence. Japan hopes their Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) regional initiative will boost security and economic cooperation between the four allies.
The historical ties between India and Australia started immediately following European settlement in Australia from 1788. All trade to and fro from the penal colony of New South Wales was controlled by the British East India Company through Kolkata. India and Australia established diplomatic relations in the pre-Independence period, with the establishment of India Trade Office in Sydney in 1941. The end of the Cold War and simultaneously India’s decision to launch major economic reforms in 1991 provided the first positive move towards development of closer ties between the two nations.
The India-Australia bilateral relationship has undergone evolution in recent years, developing along a positive track, into a friendly partnership. The two nations have much in common, underpinned by shared values of a pluralistic, Westminster-style democracies, Commonwealth traditions, expanding economic engagement and increasing high level interaction. Several commonalities, including strong, vibrant, secular and multicultural democracies, free press, independent judicial system and English language, serve as a foundation for a closer co-operation and multifaceted interaction. Australia has joined now as a fellow traveller in our commitment to Disarmament, Global peace, North-South Dialogue, Human rights, Environmental protection and combating International terrorism. The longstanding people-to-people ties, ever increasing Indian students coming to Australia for higher education, growing tourism and sporting links, especially Cricket and Hockey, have played a significant role in further strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries.
With the changing global scenario, Australia has come to look at India as an important partner in promoting regional security and stability. This led to upgradation of bilateral relationship between the two nations to a ‘Strategic Partnership’, including a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation in 2009. Over the years an array of institutional mechanism has been put in place to promote bilateral cooperation through a variety of mechanism such as exchange of high level visits, Annual Meetings of Prime Ministers of both the countries, Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue, Joint Trade & Commerce Ministerial Commission, India-Australia '2+2' Foreign Secretaries and Defence Secretaries Dialogue, Defence Policy Talks including Policy talks at the level of Senior Officials, Staff Talks, Energy Security Dialogue and Australia-India Education Council. The Australian foreign policy blueprint released in November 2017 sees India in the front rank of Australia’s international partnerships. It says, “Beyond an increasingly important economic relationship, our security interests are congruent, particularly in relation to the stability and openness of the Indian Ocean. Both the countries have common interests in upholding international law, especially in relation to freedom of navigation and maritime security”. Australia strongly encourages India’s strategic engagement with East Asia and the United States.
In 2020 Australia joined the Malabar naval exercises, effectively making it a Quad event. This moved forward the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) that Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Scott Morrison agreed in June 2020, in terms of maritime security and broader stability across the region. It demonstrated the ability of the navies of India, Australia, the U.S. and Japan to work through exercises, warfare serials and like. That is important because, were there to be a regional crisis, like a natural or humanitarian disaster, the ability to work smoothly with partners is critical. It builds particularly on the maritime agreement that was one of the agreements underneath the CSP, but also to the mutual logistic support arrangement, which is designed to improve the collaboration.
This reflects the commitment that Quad partners have to a free, open, and prosperous Indo Pacific. It demonstrates the commitment that Australia and India have to what Prime Minister Modi described at the June summit as a sacred duty to provide the neighbourhood with the environment where people could prosper, where there could be stability upon which to build your lives, and where you could live freely. It reiterates that.
It also came off the back of ongoing interactions between these armed forces. The AusIndex exercise in 2019 was the largest naval engagement Australia had ever been a part of, and most complex involving submarine serials and P-8 Poseidon maritime patrols across the Bay of Bengal. Equally, passage exercise again demonstrated an ability to work together, including practising warfare serials on water. All these things increase the level of cooperation, increase the significance of the relationship, but practically ensure that should they be called upon, these navies could work more closely together, effectively, in support of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Indo Pacific.
India and Australia preserve their vision for a democratic, regionally balanced Asia to ensure a safe, secure and prosperous future for their citizens. As part of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), there were agreements in relation to critical technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, quantum computing and 5G because we recognise the opportunities they present to people, to businesses, to the broader economy, and the fact that they should be guarded by international standards to ensure they do not present risks, to security or prosperity. The Australia-India framework Arrangements on Cyber and Cyber Enabled Critical Technology cooperation, abbreviated as the Arrangement, will enhance bilateral cooperation. Under the agreement, the parties would cooperate together to promote and preserve that open, free, safe and secure Internet by working around international norms and rules. It set out practical ways to promote and enhance digital trade, harness critical technologies, and address cyber security challenges. It provided a program of ?66 crore over four years for an Australia-India cyber and critical technology partnership to support research by institutions in both Australia and between institutions in Australia and India.
India and Australia also signed an MoU on critical minerals between both countries because they are the essential inputs into these critical and emerging technologies, which cover areas like high tech electronics, telecommunications, clean energy, transport and defence. Critical minerals are essential if India wants to achieve its energy mission goal in the battery industry, storage industry and electric vehicle industry. Australia potentially sees an opportunity to provide elements into India’s efforts to improve its manufacturing, defence and electric vehicle and energy mission projects. Indian companies are currently owning or significant investors in Australian critical minerals and rare earths companies.
Looking at space technologies, India has made critical advances over several decades now. Australia and India have been cooperating together as countries since 1987, when they inked their first MoU, and there is a strong engagement between ISRO and Australian agencies. They have undertaken data collaboration on Indian remote satellites. Since 2013, Australia has been doing laser ranging for Indian regional navigational satellite systems.
A.K.Antony paid the first ever official visit by an Indian Defence Minister to Australia during 04-05 June, 2013. During his visit, he held talks with the then Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith and called on the then Prime Minister Ms Julia Gillard. The Defence Ministers recognised the rapid progress made in Defence relations through the framework of bilateral talks at the level of Defence Ministries, and service-toservice interaction, defence training and exchanges of visits by Service Chiefs and Senior Officers. Defence Ministers of both the countries held bilateral meeting in Singapore in October 2018 on the sidelines of the ADMM plus. Former Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne and Chief of Australian Navy Vice Admiral Tim Berrett visited India in January 2018 for bilateral discussions with their counterparts. They also participated in the Raisina Dialogue. Both the countries also held usual Army to Army Staff Talks, Navy to Navy Staff Talks and Air Force to Air Force Staff Talks during the year.
During PM's visit to Australia in November 2014, both sides decided to extend defence cooperation to cover research, development and industry engagement and agreed to hold regular meetings at the level of the Defence Minister, conduct regular maritime exercises and convene regular service-to-service talks. As a result, the then Australian Defence Minister Mr. Kevin Andrews visited India during 01-03 September 2015 for bilateral talks, including issues related to Security co-operation with Raksha Mantri Manohar Parrikar. Our CNS Admiral RK Dhowan visited Australia during 02-07 October 2015 for bilateral talks, attended Sea Power Conference 2015 in Sydney and signed a Technical Agreement on White Shipping Information Exchange. Defence Policy Talks and Service to Service Staff talks are also regularly held.
In October 2013 Australian Navy conducted an International Fleet Review in Sydney where Indian Navy's ship INS Sahyadri participated. Indian Coastguard Ship ‘Sankalp’ visited Port Darwin in the first week of December 2014 and two Indian ships, INS Satpura and INS Kamorta visited Fremantle Port, Perth, in the first week of June 2015 as a goodwill visit. Indian Naval Offshore Patrol vessel ‘Sumitra’ visited Sydney during 04-07 November, 2016 and Darwin during 06-09 December 2016 with the aim of strengthening bilateral ties and enhancing maritime security cooperation. The first-ever Bilateral Maritime Exercise, AUSINDEX 15, was conducted in Visakhapatnam and the Bay of Bengal in September 2015. Australian Naval ship HMAS Darwin participated in the International Fleet Review conducted off the coast of Vishakhapatnam during 04-08 February 2016. Chief of Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett and thirty men military band participated in IFR 2016.
The bilateral visits and talks by Services Chiefs continued in 2016 with Australian Chief of Army, Lt. General Angus Campbell visiting India during 11-16 January, 2016 for bilateral calls, talks on bilateral defence and Army to Army relationships. General Dalbir Singh, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) visited Australia during 11-14 July, 2016 for bilateral calls, discussions with Australian Chief of Defence forces, Chief of Army, Chief of Navy and other Senior Defence officials and visited various Defence establishments, including newly commissioned RAN Ship HMAS Adelaide and naval establishment HMAS Kuttabul. Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, Chief of the Air Staff visited Australia during 19-23 September 2017 for bilateral calls and talks on India-Australia defence cooperation. ACM Dhanoa also held discussions with Air Marshal Leo Davies, Chief of Australian Air Force and other senior Defence officials. Defence Industry, Minister Christopher visited India from 16th to 18th January, 2018 to attend the ‘Raisina Dialogue’. He also held bilateral discussions with Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman, Defence Minister. Chief of Royal Australian Navy Vice Admiral Tim Berrett visited India from 15th to 20th January 2018. He participate in the Raisina Dialogue. His other engagements included meeting with the Chiefs of Indian Army, Navy & Air Force. He also had a meeting with the Defence Secretary. He also met with C-in-C, Western Naval Command, C-in-C, Southern Naval Command & Commandant, INS Ezhimala.
The second bilateral maritime exercise, AUSINDEX 2017 was conducted off the coast of Freemantle, Australia during 17-19 June 2017 in which three Indian Naval Ships, Shivalik, Kamorta and Jyoti participated. Vice-Admiral and Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Naval Command HCS Bisht also visited Australia during this period. (AUSINDEX 2019 was held in April 2019) Indian Coast Guard Ship ‘Vaibhav’ visited Darwin, Australia in February 2017 as part of its tri-nation tour to Singapore, Australia and Malaysia. An Australian Naval ship HMAS Larrakia participated in ‘MILAN’ Naval exercise in Andaman & Nicobar Islands in March 2018. In 2018, Indian Air Force participated for the first time in the Exercise Pitch Black in Australia from 27th July – 17th August. INS Sahyadri participated in Kakadu, the biennial Exercise of the Australian Navy held from 30th August to 15th September, 2018, in which 27 nations participated. The third edition of AUSTRAHIND (Special Forces of Army Exercise) was held in September 2018.
Other areas of Defence Cooperation included visit of a delegation led by Secretary, Department of Defence Research and Development and Director General, DRDO to Australia during 17-21 April 2016 for exploring collaboration in Defence Science and Technology. The 3rd India-Australia Track 1.5 Dialogue was held in Perth on 01 August 2016 in which Ambassador Jayant Prasad, DG, IDSA and Defence Ministry Officials held meetings with their counterparts in Australia. A delegation led by JS (D&ISA) MEA, with representatives from Ministries of Defence, Shipping and Earth Sciences, visited Canberra during 13-14 October 2016 for Non-Proliferation/Disarmament talks and 2nd India-Australia Maritime Affairs Dialogue.
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