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  • Writer's pictureAayushi Sharma

The Australian prime minister’s visit to India is a glimpse of the future of the Indo-Pacific

As the Australian Prime Minister visits India, the focus remains on building a long lasting comprehensive bilateral partnership for a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific.

Anthony Albanese became the first foreign Prime Minister to get on board India's INS Vikrant.

The India-Australia relationship once again takes centre stage as the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visits India along with his delegation for a much awaited bilateral visit. The relations between the two countries are highly regarded in the past few years as the two countries have worked together to strengthen their ties steadfastly. Albanese visited India on the auspicious occasion of Holi as he landed in Gujarat to even partake in the celebrations of the festival. This visit would also commence the first in-person India-Australia Annual Summit as the two Prime Ministers and their respective delegations meet to discuss the issues of bilateral strategic, economic, cultural and diplomatic relationship.

While the ongoing visit of the Prime Minister of Australia marks an important recognition of the cordial ties between the two nations, it also sends a message to the world regarding the importance of strong partnerships in the Indo Pacific and how seriously the countries within the region are taking the issues of stability and security. As the Prime Minister Anothony Albanese put it, the two countries share a fierce but healthy sporting rivalry and the mutual love for cricket has often come to characterise this relationship. However, there is more to it now and several dimensions have come to the forefront in the bid to develop this friendship and partnership even further.

When one can certainly appreciate the developments of the recent past in the favour of this partnership, it also begs the question as to how these countries come to consciously understand the importance of each other’s support for the stability and security in the Indo-pacific. Part of this has to do with the trajectory of international politics that will soon pit the Indo-pacific at the centre of world politics. The foreign state intervention still remains a common threat among the countries of the region and there is a growing concern of building bilateral and multilateral partnerships in order to develop mechanisms to contain these threats. The other facet of the story is that India and Australia, had embarked on an extraordinary pathway of growth over the last few years and this has led to them occupying a central position in the aim to create a robust and stable structure in the Indo-pacific.

Australia has often characterised the relationship with India as a vital economic partnership and it is true that the economic interconnectedness and the free flow of trade has formed an important basis of the ties. The one aspect of thai secure economic relationship is how India has provided a safer and an enabling platform to foreign business investors, especially when it comes to Australia that provides the country with a status of a secure business partner. The one defining factor between the bilateral relationship is the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) that allows for India and Australia to engage in free trade practices. As Anthony Albanese calls it a ‘transformative’ deal, the deal is transformative indeed.

The ECTA not only encompasses the commercial aspect of trade but also includes the favourable policies of education and students exchange on both sides through the ease of work visa policies as well. This taps into the other facet of the bilateral ties, which includes a strong academic and research based exchange between the two countries.

Australia’s Exports to India from 2013 to 2022

The rise in the Australian exports to India over the years is evidence enough that trade ties have improved considerably and the ECTA will facilitate the process even further. ECTA is expected to boost bilateral trade up to 45 to 50 billion dollars by 2035.

The Indian student diaspora is one of the most important cultural exports of the country. The country aims to make international education accessible to the Indian students for higher education and Australia has become a very attractive destination for the same. Australia’s quality of life and education has allowed for Indian students to aim towards studying in the country and even contribute to the workforce. The share of Indian diaspora in Australia’s international student pool is the second largest with the number close to eighty six thousand in 2022. The Australian government’s initiatives to foster a strong student research environment is realised through research scholarships such as the Australia India Research Students Fellowships that provide a strong platform to Indian research students to take advantage of Australian higher education. The closer ties in education have far reaching implications for building the research and academic partnership between the two countries.

Where does research and academia figure in the bilateral relationship?

When it comes to building new avenues for collaboration, identifying the scope of cooperation in new and emerging technologies can only be built if both the countries develop a framework to sanction research together. The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund is an important example on how to take things forward in this regard. While India’s service and technology sector can become an important export point, Australia’s higher education and government backed research grants may provide the much needed push for the robust partnership in critical and emerging technologies.

The partnership in emerging technologies would not only add to the technological advances of both the countries but become a significant factor in an important facet of this relationship- defence. The strategic component of the India-Australia partnership is not lost on the leadership of both the countries as they intend to build their defence relationship through technological transformation as well as investing in the new age defence spheres of cybersecurity and space exploration.

Building the ties further

The Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, which forms the backbone of defence and strategic exchange between India and Australia saw a huge push as Prime Minister Modi and his Australian counterpart engaged actively on building the bilateral ties. Memorandums of Understanding were also signed between both sides on cooperation in sports as well as research. Renewable energy transformation technologies with a special focus on solar and hydropower would become the central focus of cooperation in the coming years as far as the bilateral relationship between India and Australia is concerned. The education and research engagement is also likely to see a further boost as it occupies an important priority area for the countries.

In a further show of appreciation of the defence ties between the two countries, the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also received the Guard of Honour by the Indian Armed Forces upon his visit to the country on the Indian Air Force’s aircraft carrier INS Vikrant while the Australian Minister of Defence Richard Marles also got the pleasure of riding the P-8I aircraft of the Indian Navy. As Albanese was aboard the INS Vikrant, he addressed the importance of maritime engagement between the countries and called India a ‘top tier security partner’ in the bid to ensure security and prosperity of the Indian ocean region (IOR).

With Anthony Albanese’s current visit to India, these facets of the bilateral cooperation will be explored further but with a higher touch of culture and cricket as the Prime Ministers acknowledged their shared love of cricket by attending the first day of the India-Australia cricket match in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. As the visit draws closer to its end, it would be a strong message of peace and cooperation to the world as the Indo-Pacific becomes the epitome of security and progress amidst the chaos of international politics.

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