India, Australia & the Indo-Pacific matrix

India and Australia have signed an economic cooperation agreement & a framework defence and security agreement

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Australia (November 16-18), which followed the G-20 summit at Brisbane attended by the PM, gave the Indian leader the opportunity for a rather extended sojourn Down Under, which he used to rather good effect to enhance and deepen ties with a Pacific power that has gained in importance in recent decades.

India-Australia ties lay in a somewhat indifferent state in the period of the Cold War. Subsequently also the relations were none too warm on account of India going ahead with its nuclear tests in spite of not being a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The mending of relations had begun under the Manmohan Singh government which saw the altering of ties with Canberra on the nuclear issue to the extent of Australia reversing policy to supply uranium for Indian reactors. This initiative has now been nearly brought to fruition by the present Prime Minister as administrative arrangements to facilitate implementation of the agreement are being negotiated.

India and Australia have signed a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement as well as a framework defence and security agreement aimed at seeking India’s greater across-the-board engagement in the Indo-Pacific region. Deeper association between New Delhi and Canberra is being visualised in the field of maritime and cyber security and in countering terrorism. A free trade agreement between the two countries is also envisaged to be signed by next year.

The strategic significance of the deepening of ties is obvious in a region which accounts for a high proportion of the international GDP, thanks to the presence of Asean and East Asian economies, as well as some scope for friction on account of the rapid rise of China that some are constrained to view with a degree of anxiety.

We should not lose sight of perspective, however. China already has strong economic and trade ties with Australia. India has only now begun to move in that direction. India has plans to expand trade and investment in a variety of fields, primarily energy, infrastructure, mining and agriculture. A good deal will turn on this country’s ability to follow through with implementation of some of the key policies that have been adumbrated.

In meeting with the business leaders of Australia and the people of Indian origin in that country, Mr Modi also conducted public diplomacy with panache, for which he received widespread media coverage. He noted that an Indian Prime Minister was visiting Australia after 28 years. The reason for this, of course, tells us story of the growing strategic importance of the Indo-Pacific region, and the role India sees for itself in this matrix.

( Source : dc )
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