India-Australia: Old Allies, New Collaborations
MUMBAI: On 23 August, 2018, Asia Society hosted Her Excellency Ms Harinder Sidhu, the Australian High Commissioner and Mr Dhruva Jaishankar, Fellow of Foreign Policy Studies, Brookings, for a crucial discussion on India-Australia relations in reference to the recently released India Economic Strategy Report prepared by Mr Peter N Varghese, former Secretary of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
High Commissioner Sidhu commenced the evening by describing the evolution Australia’s diplomatic ties-from a close relationship with the United Kingdom to now, a greater emphasis on the Asia Pacific region, specifically the Indo-Pacific. She spoke of strengthening ties with the dominant emerging economies of India, China, Japan and Indonesia and highlighted the need for stability, considering the current erratic geopolitical environment. ‘With change, comes anxiety’ she asserted, in reference to the recent trade war being led by the economies of the United States and China.
Directing the focus to the development of Indo-Australian relations, Ms Sindhu concentrated on the desire to build a cohesive strategic and economic partnership with India. She spoke of initiatives such as the ‘Pitch Black’ Air Combat Exercise and the 2+2 dialogues, being initiated to enhance strategic ties and emphasized on the need to boost trade and business. Australia has positioned itself among the top five nations for Indian students to pursue higher education, this is likely to be an area that the Australian government will explore not only to boost people-to people ties but also their economic interests.
Mr Dhurva Jaishankar further enriched the discussion by posing pertinent questions on the nature of the two market economies and their converging strategic agendas. He also added the necessity to explore other avenues such as sports, environment management and urban design that could aid in fostering a sustained interest among the nations.
The High Commissioner ended on an optimistic note, ‘India matters’ she reiterated while highlighting key areas of mutual cooperation. She is hopeful that robust institutional frameworks and multilateral agreements such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), will go a long way in building a steady, mutually beneficial relationship.
As Reported by Swati Gopakrishnan, Programme Development Intern, Asia Society India Centre