Varghese: Australia and India to Gain from Working Together

Australian High Commissioner to India Peter Varghese offers a balanced view of China's rise in Mumbai on Oct. 27, 2010. (3 min., 34 sec.)

MUMBAI, October 27, 2010 - Australia and India have many common strategic interests, such as bolstering regional institutions to ease tensions, ensuring that the balance of power in Asia favours secular democracies, having the US as a stabilizing force, and maintaining an outward-looking and engaged Asia.

These thoughts were shared by Australian High Commissioner to India, Peter Varghese AO, in an Asia Society India Centre Diplomatic Briefing Series event, hosted by the Four Seasons Hotel.

Varghese surveyed the geo-strategic conditions of Asian countries, predicting their trajectory and recommending various measures to achieve a secure and prosperous future. He suggested contending terrorism as a security threat rather than a strategic one, cautioned that ASEAN needs to work maintain its influence, and predicted that the US will remain a dominant power in the foreseeable future. Varghese also noted that China's future was the most uncertain on the strategic horizon. He expressed the need to engage the country as it grows, so that it does find overturning the current order in its interest.

Varghese also put several issues of contention into perspective, such as Australia's refusal to supply uranium to India. He explained this as a pro-Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) policy, rather than an anti-India one. Recounting how Australia decided in the 1960s not to develop nuclear weapons, he said that it was in Australia's interest to strengthen the NPT. This led to its policy of not supplying uranium to non-signatories of the NPT, including India. Yet, Australia supported the US-India nuclear deal because it believed that this addressed larger geo-strategic issues that Australia was vested in.

Current obstacles in the Australia-India relationship, he said, included a mutual misunderstanding of each other among people of both countries. Australia, for its part, is developing a cultural program to overcome this, among other measures. The current partnership in the G20, Varghese hoped, could be the harbinger of an even more productive collaboration between Australia and India in the future.