The Australia-India partnership: welcoming 2023!
The Australia-India partnership reached historic heights in 2022 but this is just the beginning.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
As we step into the new year with heightened positivity and excitement, it is only natural to mention the India - Australia ties. This relationship has been a strong source of India’s positive engagement overseas in the year 2022 and it is likely to only build stronger as this new year begins to take shape. Before we sail forward with what is to be expected in the year 2023, let us first have a reminiscent look at what 2022 brought for the India and Australia bilateral relationship.
2022: The year that was
The past year carved an important place in the timeline of the growing partnership between India and Australia. Even though the ties have had a strong historical base, there was still much left unexplored in the past decades in terms of the potential that these two countries carried for each other. India, a rapidly growing and developing economy projected to be one of the most important strategic players in international geopolitics and Australia, a strong developed economy with shared values of democracy, peace and cooperation - themes that have now come to define this partnership. Much has already been said about the colonial past that the two countries share but much remains to be said about how the ties would take shape in the future.
The breakthrough Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) came to define the nature of the India-Australia ties in the past year. It was later in 2022 that the Australian Parliament ratified the agreement, bringing it very much to reality. The free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries opens the doors for not just imports and exports in goods and services but also lays emphasis on the importance of people to people exchange via relaxed visa processes. This year was also the year of important strategic as well as defence initiatives through increased naval exercises and recognition of cooperation in cyberspace security. This aspect is important as it lays emphasis on the crucial role that the two countries could play in the security of the Indo-Pacific. The India Australia engagement thus moved from just being members of the multilateral QUAD security grouping to strong bilateral partners on the strategic front.
During this Australian ambassador Barry O’Farrell even managed to find time for a road trip across north India as he acquainted himself with the rich cultural heritage of the country while also improving on the grassroots diplomacy.
A new year ahead
Based on the trajectory that this relationship took in this past year, it is safe to say that 2023 would also prove to be full of dynamic opportunities. There have been increasing attempts to improve the people-to-people relations, whether it be through cooperation with the non-governmental organisations or through cultural cooperation. Initiatives like the Australia-India future skills initiative that was launched earlier last year shows the focus on capacity building that is likely to bear fruit in the future. Australia would also provide work visas for the Indian nationals studying in the country and this adds to the high skill engagement that is needed to improve the cooperation in research and development areas.
Another significant angle waiting to be explored further in this new year is the potential of critical minerals, especially lithium. It has already been established that Australia could prove to be an important source of these critical minerals. The Australian supply could easily meet the Indian demands and this could be an important stepping stone towards greater cooperation in the renewable energy and technology transformation sector even further. Speaking of energy, the other major development that is likely to be significant for the year ahead is the import of coal from Australia. Owing to the landmark ECTA, the trade of goods and resources had already been made smoother and now India can have duty free access to imports of coal from Australia. This is critical because coal is one the major energy resources in the country and being in the era of massive energy insecurity globally, this development merits appreciation.
Apart from smoother trade, the other aspect that is likely to bind the two countries together for a longer future is the improvement in the cultural ties. Last year Australia celebrated Diwali with full rigour. The Indian communities also gained a deeper understanding of the Australian indigenous communities through cultural events. This aspect adds to the fact that the two countries are now well beyond just ‘cricket, curry and commonwealth’ when it comes to their bilateral relations. As Australia continues to recognise the work of the Indian diaspora in contributing to the multicultural nature of Australian society, India also aims to build community-based relations that would go a long way in the future.