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Recently, India and Australia held a virtual summit with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Both the nations, India and Australia share a similar kind of perspective and understanding towards each other as per previous associations. The Partnership between India and Australia has been firm since 2009. It is the first virtual bilateral summit for India whereas Australia had conducted a virtual summit previously with Singapore. The summit was initiated to discuss about the tensions posed by China to both Australia and India and ways to control the pandemic. Various decisions were taken regarding Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, Mutual Logistics Agreement Comprehensive Economic Cooperation agreement and developing India- Australia relations.
This summit holds great significance considering the Corona virus pandemic and the economic recession due to the lockdown. At this time of crisis, certain decisions must be taken to ensure less damage or minimum loss. Hence, the togetherness of different nations around the world against the crisis is of utmost importance. This summit has not only upgraded the relationship between the two countries to a comprehensive strategic partnership but also strengthened the relationship to welcome endless opportunities. The mutual logistics agreement is extremely beneficial to both the countries since it will enhance their ability to face security challenges. Agriculture has been an integral part of both the countries. Hence, agricultural activities, its challenges and the climate conditions which is affected due to the circumstances is also taken into consideration in the virtual summit.
Relationship between India and Australia
India and Australia have been sharing a diplomatic relationship since pre-Independence period. The Prime Minister of both the countries have been meeting regularly since 2014 to strengthen their ties which wasn’t the case before. Previously, the relationship was not balanced because Australia had been making efforts to befriend India but India, on the other hand, responded with uncertainty. In the year 2009, a strategic partnership agreement was signed between the two countries with a view to expand trade and investment. India holds eighth position in being Australia’s largest trading partner. Peter Varghese has compiled the India Economic Strategy report for the Australian Government in the year 2009 according to which 62 percent of Indian parents wish to send their children to study abroad which is a clear indication for India to rise up its rate of enrolment.
However, huge challenges had come in the way, for example, India withdrew herself from the Regional Cooperative Economic Partnership which was to be signed among countries like China, Australia, South Korea and the other ASEAN members as a trade agreement. This withdrawal was not well received by the other countries. India and Australia have been part of the ‘Quad’ with other countries like United States and Japan. It is quite evident that India and Australia have come closer to each other in the last few years.
This virtual summit gave rise to major developments in the fields of defence, Maritime, Agriculture, treating Corona virus patients, cyber technology and trade. These are explained as follows:
- The bilateral strategic partnership agreement signed in 2009 was elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership which means upgrading the 2+2 dialogue to the ministerial level.
- The mutual logistics support agreement was renewed to address the security issues jointly. It permits the militaries of both the countries the usage of passage and port exercises, bases and disaster relief and humanitarian relief corporation.
- Due to India’s withdrawal from the Regional Comprehensive Economic partnership, it was decided by both the countries begin the suspended discussions on India- Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
- Both the countries decided to promote ways in dealing with the ongoing pandemic and formed the India- Australia strategic Research Fund.
- Full cooperation on mining i.e. extraction and exploration of minerals of the rare earth metals which is used for several purposes like water management.
- Cooperation in dealing with the cyber technology, cyber security and digital economy.
This virtual summit is indeed an important initiative to stand against the crisis situations. It was welcomed by both the countries and its citizens. At this time of pandemic, where meeting in person is nearly impossible, a virtual conference between the nations is the need of the hour. Both India and Australia covered almost all the areas where they could work jointly. However, none of the countries raised the issue of China posing threats to both Australia and India. There are conflicts ongoing between India and China over the standoff at the Line of Actual Control. The troops have engaged in a constant clash since May 5 due to China’s disagreement over laying of a road near the Pangong Tso lake.
On the other hand, tensions between China and Australia have been increasing since Australia demanded the report of the pandemic situation which begun to spread from China. India and Australia might have dealt with these challenges jointly against China. The inclusion of Australia in the Malabar exercise was not discussed in the virtual summit although India has expressed a hope to include Australia in the Malabar Exercise, a naval exercise, which already consists of member countries like USA and Japan. Nonetheless, the discussions and the measures undertaken by both the countries are extremely relevant and required especially at this time of crisis.
The main aim of the India-Australia virtual summit is to develop cooperation and unity between the countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi even said that this is the best time to undertake initiatives and turn this crisis into an opportunity. This emerging digital technology have made possible to stay connected in unfortunate times. The Covid- 19 pandemic, which is the cause of suffering of the entire world has brought several countries together. Countries, in the form of helping each other are strengthening their relations to cope up against the huge crisis. This summit is the standing example of this concept. The partnership between India and Australia will definitely prove to be an asset in the future. These initiatives taken by the Prime Minister does not work only in favour of India but also in favour of the entire world.
Author: Sonam Pradhan from Alliance School of Law, Alliance University, Bengaluru.
Editor: Silky Mittal, Junior Editor, Lexlife India.