Upgrading India-Australia ties
Both countries decided to establish a Framework for Security Cooperation to reflect the deepening and expanding security and defence engagement between India and Australia, and to intensify cooperation and consultation between Australia and India in areas of mutual interest.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi was still in Australia, Judith Ireland, national political reporter, wrote in Sydney Morning Herald, how Prime Minister Modi turned the Australian Parliament into a rock star’s stage. She writes of one getting the sense there was something about Modi when world leaders had their official handshakes with Tony Abbott at the G-20 Summit. While other leaders offered brief handshakes and stiff smiles, India’s Prime Minister strode out of the wings to greet his Australian counterpart with an exuberant
hug. She goes on to say that when Modi began to address the Parliament, we knew for sure there was something about the Indian Prime Minister. It wasn’t just that he acknowledged Indigenous Australians when Abbott did not. Besides it was not that Modi spoke without a script but more importantly the content of what he spoke that hypnotised the normally rowdy House of Representatives.
Amongst other things, he spoke of: 800 million Indians under the age of 35, willing to work for change; young Indians wanting energy, smart cities and villages that offer opportunity, and; India as the answer to Australian quest for new economic opportunities as source for world-class skills at home or as manufacturing location abroad. As Prime Minister Modi concluded his address, the chamber rose in a standing ovation. Referring to the Parliamentarians, Judith writes, “They were not just being polite. If Madam Speaker had let them, they would have whistled, whooped and charged the stage. That’s what you do when you see a rock star perform.”
The fact is that Prime Minister Modi has displayed that rare ability to establish the psychological connection wherever addressing or meeting diverse audiences and people whether at home or abroad, and this he displayed once again in Australia – whether addressing the Australian Parliament, Universities, BRICS forum, G-20, industry and business, Indian diaspora, meeting world leaders and others. His address to G-20 was well applauded and consented at large particularly with regard to cooperation in reversion of black money that also a security risk plus the need to push for global growth. While Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were observed addressing each other on first name basis, the personal warmth that both shared during the latter’s Australia visit, the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 28 years, was also reflected when Abbott said at the reception he hosted at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, that Modi is like a “brother.”
The hallmark of Prime Minister Modi’s Australia visit was the two Premiers reaffirming that the Indo-Australia Strategic Partnership is based on converging political, economic and strategic interests; a shared desire to promote regional and global peace, security and prosperity; and a commitment to democracy, freedom, human rights, and the rule of law. Both countries decided to establish a Framework for Security Cooperation to reflect the deepening and expanding security and defence engagement between India and Australia, and to intensify cooperation and consultation between Australia and India in areas of mutual interest. This framework is to be implemented in accordance with an Action Plan agreed mutually that includes the seven spheres of: Annual Summit and Foreign Policy Exchanges and Coordination; Defence policy planning and coordination; Counterterrorism (CT) and other Transnational Crimes; Border Protection, Coast Guard, and Customs; Disarmament, Non-proliferation, Civil Nuclear Energy and Maritime Security; Disaster management and peacekeeping, and; Cooperation in Regional and Multilateral Fora.
The Annual Summit and Foreign Policy Exchanges and Coordination is to include: Annual meeting of Prime Ministers including in the margins of multilateral meetings; Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue; Senior Officials’ Talks led by India’s Secretary (East) in MEA and Secretary of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; East Asia Talks between External/Foreign Affairs senior officials, and; 1.5 Track Australia-India Dialogue. The Defence policy planning and coordination will include: Regular Defence Ministers’
The strategic nature of this bilateral relationship is important with the new Great Game unfolding in region, which is indicated with China establishing 18 naval bases in the Indian Ocean region and US move to add Australia to the US-Japan-India Trialogue.
Meeting; Annual Defence Policy Talks; Annual 1.5 Track Defence Strategic Dialogue; Service to Service engagement including regular high-level visits, annual staff talks, joint training and regular exercises as agreed; regular bilateral maritime exercises, and explore defence R&D cooperation, including through visits by Australian and Indian defence material delegations and efforts to foster joint industry links. CT and other Transnational Crimes will encompass: Annual JWG on CT and other Transnational Crimes; cooperation in CT training and exchanges between experts on countering IEDs, bomb incidents and technologies; exchanges on counter-radicalisation; cooperation between police on investigation of transnational crime; cooperation on extradition and mutual legal assistance requests; cooperation between AUSTRAC and Financial Intelligence Unit-India; exchanges on cyber policy and cooperation between CERT India and CERT Australia, and; cooperation in combating illegal migration. Border Protection, Coast Guard, and Customs is to include; annual meetings of the JWG on Visas, Passports and Consular Matters; exchanges and cooperation between the Indian Coast Guard and Australian border protection authorities, and cooperation between Customs authorities, including training. Disarmament, Non-proliferation, Civil Nuclear Energy and Maritime Security would encompass: annual bilateral dialogue on Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and International Security, including maritime security; Australian support for Indian membership of the export control regimes; early operationalisation of civil nuclear energy cooperation and Australia’s support for strengthening India’s energy security by supply of uranium for India’s safeguarded nuclear reactors; cooperation between agencies engaged on international search and rescue, including through information exchange and regional dialogue, and; cooperation on these issues in relevant international fora, including the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum.
Disaster management and peacekeeping is to cover: exchange on approaches to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; collaboration in the East Asia Summit on disaster management, and; cooperation and exchanges on peacekeeping issues, including between peacekeeping institutions.
Cooperation in Regional and Multilateral For a is to cover: close cooperation in regional and multilateral fora, including the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+), the Indian Ocean Rim Association, Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, the UN and its specialised agencies, and the G-20, and support for India’s bid to be a permanent member of the UNSC. Progress under the Action Plan is to be reviewed through established institutional arrangements, including the Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue and the Defence Ministers’ Meeting.
To say that a new era has dawned in Indo-Australian relationship would be stating the very obvious. In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said so in as many words during the reception hosted for him at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It may be noted that both the Framework and the Action Plan discussed above are comprehensive. The strategic nature of this bilateral relationship is important with the new Great Game unfolding in region, which is indicated with China establishing 18 naval bases in the IOR including Sri Lanka and Seychelles, and US move to add Australia to the USJapan-India Trialogue. Prime Minister Modi has invited Prime Minsiter Tony Abbott to India next year. That will perhaps be the time the nuclear energy cooperation deal will get operationalised.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi being greeted by the Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott at the opening ceremony of the
G-20 Summit, in Brisbane, Australia, on November 15, 2014