India and Australia share a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership which has allowed both countries to increase the bilateral engagements with each other and establish a platform which would continuously aim towards progressing this strategic partnership. The Strategic Convergence since 2018 has grown tremendously, showing encouraging signs of mutual trust, respect, and integrity that both countries have for one another. An important outline of this Strategic Convergence is the collaboration between India and Australia in the Indo-Pacific region. Against this backdrop the Ananta Aspen Centre held a digital session on “Australia and India in the Post-COVID-19 World” with H.E. The Hon Barry O’Farrell A.O., Australia’s High Commissioner to India. This session was chair by Mr. Govindraj Ethiraj, Founder - Editor: IndiaSpend & BOOMLive.
Australia recognizes the Indo – Pacific region as an important area in modern-day geopolitics as it hosts the Exclusive Economic Zones for both India and Australia, hence, a free Indo-Pacific remains a mutual goal shared by both Australia and India as well as collectively in the Quad grouping. Moreover, territorial usurpation by China remains a key concern for both countries as any claims to sovereignty violates international law and deters the mutual goal of the Quad.
The Coronavirus pandemic might have halted and hindered the growth in key industries, but it also has opened new areas of collaboration on which the Strategic Convergence between India and Australia aims to focus in this post-COVID-19 era. The COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened the gravitational pull between the two countries as the ties are seemingly blossoming as India and Australia see a perfect match for each other as illustrated by Australia’s rejoining in the naval exercise, Malabar in the Indian Ocean where joint defence activities were carried out both bilaterally and under the aegis of Quad. The reshaping and restructuring of network architecture in the Indo – Pacific remain an important goal for the Quad as ensuring a peaceful, secure, and democratic Indo – Pacific region would set forth a precedent as well as safeguard one of the major geopolitical theatres. Due to the pandemic, economies of both countries have had major setbacks, but both have managed to elevate their respective economies and move towards normalcy whilst ensuring robust growth. Australia and India can be categorized as complementary economies as Australia is one of the few countries in the world that can potentially match India’s domestic demands. India is a pioneer in critical renewable technology and has been for recent years. India aims to lead the way towards fighting Climate Change by transitioning from a non-renewable energy-based economy to a renewable one. Hence, Australia being home to several critical minerals such as nickel, lithium, uranium, and cobalt, which are key minerals required in fostering renewable energies, could collaborate with Indian companies in ensuring smooth yet rapid transition in both the countries.
The two emerging prospects in this major Strategic Convergence are – greater coordination between India and Australia in the post-COVID-19 world and Cooperation on climate change. India is leading the way in the production of vaccines against the COVID virus and it can generate and distribute the vaccines to the entire globe. Australia, on the other hand, has managed to contain the virus effectively. Collaboration on the medical and healthcare front between the two nations could yield significant outcomes not just for India and Australia but also for the entirety of the world in its fight against the COVID-19. Similarly, climate change is a major concern for Australia and its pacific neighbours as having an insular geographic presence threatens their primitive livelihood and destabilizes the entire region. India and Australia are both the founding members of the International Solar Alliance and both countries are blessed with an abundance of sunshine which enables greater generation, transmission, and transfer of solar energies. There is a mutual recognition to act against climate change and provide not just hope but a bright future for our successors.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth unprecedented changes in the way we imagine our lives, it has also provided us with an opportunity to prepare ourselves for future outbreaks. The last time an international restructuring occurred was in the aftermath of World War II which resulted in the establishment of multilateral agencies but the post COVID-19 era allows us the liberty to restructure our critical industries such as healthcare and public service to prevent them from withering. International cooperation on the healthcare front is not just out of compulsion but rather is led by need-based cooperation to safeguard our global health. Likewise, cooperation and collaboration in cyberspace are mandatory due to the evolving landscape. Australia has allocated more funds for cyber technology and has also created several jobs in the tech industry.
India and Australia share a deep diasporic bond as 1 in 35 Australians have Indian roots. Australia is home to several thousand students studying across Australia and contributing towards its economy. Several Indian tech companies have established their largest bases in Australia which is proving beneficial as Australia now aims to move towards the services-based economy for which consumption of technology plays an integral part. While the COVID-19 pandemic has called for the closure of international borders, Australia remains hopeful that the footfall of Indian tourists visiting Australia keeps soaring as tourism and hospitality are key economic sectors for Australia.
It is believed that Australia and India are a perfect match for each other as both are old yet young with vibrancy in their democracy who share a similar history of colonization by the same colonizer and are hoping for the similar trajectory of progress in the future in their respective regions. The potential and scope for enlargement of this Strategic Convergence remain unimaginable due to their sheer size, presence, and magnanimity. This relationship could evolve into one of the most valuable regional partnership in the Indo – Pacific.
This digital session was a part of a series on “Ambassador Series”
Please watch the full session on YouTube