While COVID-19 delayed Prime Ministers Modi and Morrison’s Leaders Meeting until it only accelerated the need for India and Australia to be much closer. The pandemic should not distract Australia from its obligation to deepen its strategic and economic relationship with India significantly.
Although domestic issues have taken precedence during this crisis, the investment in the Leaders’ Virtual Summit by the two prime ministers is an expression of the growing trust and relevance in the relationship. Convergent economic and strategic interests underpin this connection both at the government level and in recent years the considerable increase
in economic, defense, and diplomatic activity.
Despite the recent developments, much work remains to be done to achieve common ambitions. Australia continues to be a work-in-progress to raise India as both an economic and strategic top partner. In addition to converging interests and high-level consideration, strengthening economic relations requires a lasting unity of purpose in both countries throughout government and industry.
In the COVID-19 crisis, the importance of safe, diverse, and reliable value chains has been crystallized throughout the world for several reasons. Shocks on trade and higher risks for access to critical products have led many to re-evaluate their international economic relationships. Initial community and government response call for greater security in supply chains, risks spread across trade markets, and more independence in essential products have been incorporated in both Australia and India.
But it is important to note that no country alone can meet all its economic needs in modern technological society. Countries need to invest in safer and more reliable trade and investment relations rather than turning inward. Australia is becoming a trustworthy supplier of materials and services that India needs to meet its needs for recovery and development. This includes supporting India’s ambition, especially in the defense, energy, and electric vehicles industries, to build its production capacities.
On the other hand, the demand for minerals and energies from Australia in Northeast Asia will soon platform, which has underpinned Australia’s decade’s economic growth. Australia’s prosperity as a medium-sized open economy is conditional on being connected to regional and international growth corridors. As one of the world’s fastest-growing major economies, India is no exception, and Australia must invest in the Indian economy further. The newly announced Indian privatization, deregulation, and foreign investment must not only be examined closely by Australian industries, but also work to jointly implement India’s upcoming Australia Economic Strategy.
The strategic importance of India in the region is central to Australia’s defense of the Indo- Pacific concept. In addition to recognizing India’s increasing economic and strategic weight, the Indo-Pacific structure aims to promote the further integration of India into regional architecture. Although COVID 19 has locked up economies, exacerbated high power contests, and caused significant human pain, the Indo-Pacific is unlikely to disappear.
The creation of Indo-Pacific institutions requires more Indian membership of the regulatory regional architecture. As it is important for Australia and other partners to step up their advocacy for India to become an APEC member, India must take Australia and RCEP seriously. An additionally integrated India will allow it in its industrialization process to take a new stage, thus providing Indians and Australians with economic opportunities.
The summit marked a positive shift in the formal bilateral relationship, with Foreign and Défense Ministers agreeing to meet in a “2+2” format. Other agreements reached yesterday cover vital minerals and maritime cooperation, both of which would not have been feasible if the connection had not been sustained. The next step in the bilateral relationship is to realize both the economic and strategic benefits of the tighter Indian and Australian alignment that these accords provide.
The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement, which has now been concluded, provides reciprocal access to naval and military facilities of each other and enhances the ability of both countries to work together. As joint exercises due to COVID-19 are delayed, ongoing defense dialogue and future operations planning remain essential. In addition, to increase the security industry and commercial cyber activities, it is essential to build the growing strategic trust between the two nations. In this respect, the announcement of a new fund to boost joint research into cyber and critical technologies is important.
Action for slow virus spread in Australia and India will allow both nations to cautiously remove restrictions and attempt to launch economic activity. For both, the road ahead is difficult, but if you go together, it will be smoother. Australia sees India as a vital partner in economic recovery and to meet the long-term economic aspirations of each other. There is a great deal more work to be done and no time to waste.