No stopping in tightening India--Australia ties: Ashok Sharma reviews the first Australia-India annual summit meeting at which the two countries reaffirmed their commitment to their strategic partnership for a stable and secure Indo-Pacific region.

Date01 July 2023
AuthorSharma, Ashok

Amidst the growing uncertainty over the security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, countries have been repositioning their strategic postures in the region. Australia is one nation that is speeding up its strategic actions to guarantee a secure and stable region. The Australian, United Kingdom and United States security grouping AUKUS's March nuclear submarine agreement in San Diego, where Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, has received a lot of attention amidst growing concern about the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific region. No less significant, however, is Albanese's four-day state visit to India just before he travelled to the United States for the AUKUS meeting. The escalating pace of Australia's engagement with India in this context is noteworthy.

Albanese's state visit to India at Modi's invitation from 8 to 11 March took a further step towards the sustained development of Australia-India ties. During his first trip as prime minister Albanese met with Modi, and both agreed on further strategy to strengthen the Australia-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP). At the first Australia-India annual summit meeting, (1) the two prime ministers discussed areas of co-operation on regional and international issues of shared interest, expressed appreciation for the on-going momentum in bilateral and multilateral co-operation and emphasised the strength of the multifaceted bilateral partnership that has grown out of the CSP.

Recent improvement

The relationship between Australia and India has improved recently. Since the Modi government took office, both countries have made substantial efforts to improve their ties. This all started with Prime Minister Tony Abbott's trip to India in 2014. He was the first head of government to receive an invitation from the newly formed Modi government, and it was during this trip that the civilian nuclear accord was finalised. Following this, Modi visited Australia, also in 2014, some three decades after the last Indian prime minister had done so. While there, he addressed the Indian diaspora as well as the Australian Parliament.

Since then, the frequency of summit gatherings and high-level visits between the two countries has increased. There has been an upswing in bilateral ties between the two nations. The 2009 Strategic Partnership was upgraded to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in June 2020. The rapid expansion of bilateral ties has been made possible by regular high-level contacts, an exchange of ministerial visits and regular meetings between the prime ministers of the two countries.

Despite sharing similar democratic ideals and having complementary economies, both nations faced difficulty in forging a meaningful strategic partnership. Both experienced a loss of confidence, which hampered the overall development of the relationship. (2) India's non-signatory status to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Australia's inconsistent stance on the supply of uranium to India (3) and obstacles to the Adani Carmichael mining project--all contributed to this loss of confidence. (4) With the two countries now enjoying a developing sense of trust and confidence in each another, that is a thing of the past. Increased involvement at the highest levels has assisted in bridging the trust gap. The interchange of goods, services and professionals will be boosted by high-level political and official visits and discussions, which will also develop trade and resolve any misconceptions that may otherwise cause the relationship between Australia and India to falter.

Increased co-operation

During the summit, the two leaders committed to advancing their co-operation in a variety of areas, including political and strategic, defence and security, trade and investment, education and research, agriculture and water, cyber...

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