India - Australia Relations India - Australia Relations

India - Australia bilateral relations

Overview

The India-Australia bilateral relationship has undergone evolution in recent years, developing along a positive track, into a friendly partnership. The two nations have much in common, underpinned by shared values of a pluralistic, Westminster-style democracies, Commonwealth traditions, expanding economic engagement and increasing high level interaction. Several commonalities, including strong, vibrant, secular and multicultural democracies, free press, independent judicial system and English language, serve as a foundation for a closer co-operation and multifaceted interaction. The longstanding people-to-people ties, ever increasing Indian students coming to Australia for higher education, growing tourism and sporting links, especially Cricket and Hockey, have played a significant role in further strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries.

In recent years, India-Australia relationship has charted a whole new trajectory of transformational growth. Bilateral cooperation has seen exponential growth in existing frameworks of cooperation and further expanded across a wide spectrum of new areas opening up new possibilities, both at bilateral as well as global level.

With greater convergence of views on various international issues such as international terrorism and shared approach to rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region, the two great democracies of the region have expanded their bilateral relationship into global partnerships in plurilateral formats, including the Quad with Japan and USA.

Historical Perspective

The historical ties between India and Australia started immediately following European settlement in Australia from 1788. All trade, to and fro from the penal colony of New South Wales was controlled by the British East India Company through Kolkata. India and Australia established diplomatic relations in the pre-Independence period, with the establishment of India Trade Office in Sydney in 1941. The end of the Cold War and simultaneously, India’s decision to launch major economic reforms in 1991 provided the first positive move towards development of closer ties between the two nations. Trade and commercial links between the two nations began to develop and this economic cooperation has continued to deepen since the turn of the century. With passage of time, the relationship gained momentum towards a strategic relationship, alongside the existing economic engagement.

India-Australia Strategic Relationship

In 2009, India and Australia established a ‘Strategic Partnership’, including a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation which has been further elevated to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2020. Over the years an array of institutional mechanisms has been put in place to promote bilateral cooperation.

The Australian foreign policy blueprint released in November 2017 sees India in the front rank of Australia’s international partnerships. It says, “Beyond an increasingly important economic relationship, our security interests are congruent, particularly in relation to the stability and openness of the Indian Ocean. Both the countries have common interests in upholding international law, especially in relation to freedom of navigation and maritime security”.

High-Level Exchanges

First Ever President Visit to Australia: India’s relations with Australia reached a new high with the first ever visit of the President of India H.E. Shri Ram Nath Kovind to Australia on 21-24 November 2018. President unveiled the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Parramatta in New South Wales as part of the 150th Birth Anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi, and addressed a large gathering of Indian diaspora and local community. Five MoUs were exchanged during the visit. President’s visit to Australia was preceded by the visit of Governor General of Australia H.E. Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Ret'd), to India, in March 2018, to attend the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance.

Prime Ministerial Visits: The two-way Prime Ministerial visits in 2014 gave significant momentum to the bilateral relationship. Former Prime Minister Hon. Tony Abbott visited India on 4-5 September 2014. During the visit, four Agreements/ MoUs were signed. Prime Minister of India Hon. Shri Narendra Modi visited Australia for G20 Leaders' Summit at Brisbane in November 2014, followed by a bilateral visit from 16-18 November 2014. During the visit, Hon. PM Modi held wide-ranging talks with the then PM Hon. Tony Abbott and addressed a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament, the first by an Indian PM. “Framework for Security cooperation between India and Australia” and five other Agreements/MoUs on Social security, Tourism, Arts & Culture, Sentenced persons and combating Narcotics were signed on this occasion.

Former Prime Minister Hon. Malcolm Turnbull paid a State Visit to India from 9-12 April 2017. Six bilateral agreements / MoUs on Cooperation in combating International terrorism & transnational organized crime, Health and Medicine, Sports, Environment, Climate and Wildlife, Civil Aviation society and Space technology were signed during the visit.

Leaders’ Virtual Summit: Hon'ble Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi and the Hon Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister of Australia jointly participated in an India-Australia Leaders’ Virtual Summit on 4 June 2020 where the bilateral Strategic Partnership concluded in 2009 was elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP). Apart from a Joint Statement on CSP, the Summit also delivered eight landmark agreements/MoUs in various fields, including Maritime Cooperation in Indo-Pacific, Defence, Cyber Security, Education, Mining, Water Resource Management etc. In order to pursue the CSP, Foreign and Defence Ministers of both countries agreed to meet in a ‘2+2’ format biennially.

Quad Leaders Virtual Summit: The first-ever Quad Leaders’ Virtual Summit held on 12 March 2021 saw the participation of Prime Ministers of India, Australia, Japan and President of USA.

Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue (FMFD): FMFD is the central mechanism for advancing the bilateral agenda and is held annually. Former Foreign Minister Hon. Julie Bishop visited India on 18-19 July, 2017 for the annual FMFD in New Delhi. Foreign Minister Hon. Marise Payne (AFM) visited India on 8-9 January 2019 for Raisina Dialogue. In 2019, EAM met AFM four times on various occasions. AFM again visited India on 15-16 January 2020 to participate in the Raisina Dialogue. During the visit, AFM also held meeting with Hon. Minister of External Affairs (EAM) Dr. S. Jaishankar. On 6-7 October 2020, EAM and AFM met for the Second India-Australia-Japan-US (Quad) Ministerial Meeting in Tokyo. They also participated in the Third Quad Ministerial Meeting on 18 February 2021 which was held in virtual mode. Hon. EAM and AFM also held virtual meeting on 6 May 2021 on the sidelines of G7 FMM. In addition, both Ministers have also held frequent telephone conversation on bilateral as well as global issues. Hon. EAM, AFM and Foreign Minister of France met in London for the first India-France-Australia Ministerial Dialogue on 4 May 2021, also on the sidelines of G7 FMM.

Other Recent Ministerial visits: In the last few years, a number of high-level delegations at the Ministerial level visited Australia from India. Minister of Health & Family Welfare Shri J. P. Nadda visited Australia on 18-21 February 2018 to participate in the Inaugural Meeting of the Global Digital Health Partnership in Canberra and International Digital Health Symposium in Sydney. Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, Shri Suresh Prabhu visited Canberra and Sydney on 24-26 June 2018 for the 15th India-Australia Joint Ministerial Commission, which was held on 25 June 2018 in Canberra. Shri Prakash Javadekar, Minister for Human Resource Development visited Australia from June 28 to July 03, 2018 and participated in the Fourth meeting of Australia-India Education Council. Minister of State for Home Affairs Shri G. Kishan Reddy visited Melbourne on 7-8 November 2019 and attended the ‘No Money for Terror Ministerial Conference’. A high-level delegation led by Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Shri Raosaheb Patil Danve visited Australia on 14-21 December 2019 in pursuance of a collaborative project on consumer protection.

Australia's Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan visited India on 26-29 August 2019 where he met with his Ministerial counterparts and resource industry leaders. Australia's Education Minister Dan Tehan led a delegation of senior leaders from the education sector to India from 19 - 21 November 2019 and held meeting with Minister for Human Resource Development Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’. He also co-chaired the 5th Australia-India Education Council meeting along with his Indian counterpart in New Delhi. Australia’s Trade Minister Simon Birmingham's visited India on 24-27 February 2020 for 16th Joint Ministerial Commission with India’s Commerce Minister. A large business delegation (more than 100 Australian businesses and organisations) accompanied Minister Birmingham as part of Australia-India Business Exchange, a multi-month programme of events to deepen trade, investment and tourism engagement between two countries. Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had a virtual meeting with Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt on 14 July 2020 where they discussed bilateral health cooperation including Covid-19 management. On 11 September 2020 Shri Pralhad Joshi, Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Minister of Mines and Minister of Coal had a virtual meeting with Mr. Keith Pitt, Minister for Resources, Australia. Hon. Minister of Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution and Railways Shri Piyush Goyal held a virtual meeting with Hon. Dan Tehan, Australian Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism on 9 April 2021. On 27 April 2021, Hon. Minister of Commerce and Industry, Shri Piyush Goyal held a trilateral ministerial video-conference with Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Hon. Simon Birmingham, and Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Hon. Kajiyama Hiroshi and launched the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative.

Various Dialogue Mechanisms

Various institutional dialogue mechanisms include Annual Meetings of Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue, Joint Trade & Commerce Ministerial Commission, India-Australia '2+2' Foreign Secretaries and Defence Secretaries Dialogue, Defence Policy Talks, Australia-India Education Council, Defence Services Staff Talks, Energy Dialogue, India-Australia-Japan Trilateral Dialogue, India-Australia-Indonesia Trilateral Dialogue, India-France-Australia Trilateral Dialogue, India-Australia Bilateral Dialogue on Global Cyber Issues, India-Australia Maritime Dialogue, India-Australia Economic Policy Dialogue, India-Australia Dialogue on Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Export Control as well as Joint Working Groups on Tourism, Counter-Terrorism, Water Resources, Agriculture, Skill Development, etc.

India and Australia also co-operate in various multilateral fora. Australia supports India’s candidature in an expanded UN Security Council. Both India and Australia are members of the Commonwealth, IORA, ASEAN Regional Forum, Asia Pacific Partnership on Climate and Clean Development, and have participated in the East Asia Summits. Both countries have also been cooperating as members of the Five Interested Parties (FIP) in the WTO context. Australia supports India’s membership in the APEC. In 2008, Australia became an Observer in SAARC.

Bilateral Economic and Trade Relationship

The India-Australia economic relationship has grown significantly in recent years. India’s growing economic profile and commercial relevance to the Australian economy is recognized, both at the federal and state level in Australia. As part of its efforts to develop strong economic relationship with India, the Australian Government commissioned the India Economic Strategy to 2035 to define a pathway for Australia to unlock opportunities offered by Indian Economic growth. The paper was released in July 2018. Hon Minister of Commerce and Industry Shri Piyush Goyal released the CII Australia Economic Strategy Report in December 2020. The report gives a macroeconomic overview of Australia, reviews Australia’s business environment, highlights market opportunities in Australia for Indian products and delineates investment and cooperation opportunities in 12 focus sectors and 8 emerging sectors.

India-Australia Joint Ministerial Commission: India-Australia Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) was established in 1989 to enable interaction at a government and business level on a range of trade and investment related issues. JMC meetings are held regularly. Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, Shri Suresh Prabhu visited Canberra and Sydney on 24 -26 June 2018. He co-chaired the 15th India-Australia Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC), which was held on 25 June 2018 in Canberra, with Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment. In Canberra, the Commerce Minister called on Prime Minister. He also had extensive bilateral meetings with the Treasurer, Agriculture & Water Resources Minister and Foreign Minister. In the second leg of his visit, Commerce Minister addressed representatives of about 25 Australian Superfunds in Sydney on 26 June 2018. Australia's Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, accompanied by a large business delegation, visited India on 23 February 2020 for the 16th round of JMC.

Bilateral Trade: India is the 8th largest trade partner of Australia with trade in goods and services at A$ 26.24 billion representing 3% share of the total Australian trade in FY 2019-20, with exports at A$ 7.59 billion and imports at A$ 18.65 billion. Overall trade decreased by 13.6% on yoy basis. While India's imports decreased 18.1% on yoy basis, India's exports increased by 1.2% on yoy basis. India’s main exports to Australia are Refined petroleum, Medicaments (incl. veterinary), Pearls & gems, Jewelry, Made-up textile articles, Women's clothing (excl knitted), Other textile clothing, Manufactures of base metal, while India's major imports are Coal, Confidential items of trade, Copper ores & concentrates, Natural gas, Non-ferrous waste & scrap, Ferrous waste & scrap and education related services.

India-Australia CEO Forum is a mechanism for business from both nations to engage directly on ways to build the bilateral trade and investment relationship (It was established in 2011 and revitalised in November 2014). The Forum includes heads of Indian and Australian business from a broad range of sectors, including energy and resources, agribusiness, financial sector, telecommunications, IT, education and pharmaceuticals. The last meeting (CEO Dialogue) was held in Sydney in November 2018 during the visit of Hon. President of India to Australia.

Treasury-NITI Ayog Economic Policy Dialogue: A two–member delegation led by Mr. Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Ayog visited Australia (Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne) from 29 April to 01 May 2019 for the First Treasury – NITI Ayog Economic Policy Dialogue.

Civil Nuclear Cooperation

A Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement between the two countries was signed in September 2014 during the visit of then PM Tony Abbott to India. The agreement came into force from 13 November 2015 and provides the framework for substantial new trade in energy between Australia and India. The Australian Parliament passed the “Civil Nuclear Transfer to India Bill 2016” on 01 December, 2016 which ensures that Uranium mining companies in Australia may fulfil contracts to supply Australian uranium to India for civil use with confidence that exports would not be hindered by domestic legal action challenging the consistency of the safeguards applied by the IAEA in India and Australia’s international non-proliferation obligations. It also ensures that any future bilateral trade in other nuclear-related material or items for civil use will also be protected.

Defence Cooperation

During PM Modi's visit to Australia in November 2014, both sides decided to extend defence cooperation to cover research, development and industry engagement and agreed to hold regular meetings at the level of the Defence Minister, conduct regular maritime exercises and convene regular service-to-service talks. Australian Defence Minister Mr. Kevin Andrews visited India on 1-3 September 2015 for bilateral talks. CNS Admiral RK Dhowan visited Australia during 02-07 October 2015 for bilateral talks, attended Sea Power Conference 2015 in Sydney and signed a Technical Agreement on White Shipping Information Exchange.

In October 2013, Australian Navy conducted an International Fleet Review in Sydney where Indian Navy's ship INS Sahyadri participated. Indian Coastguard Ship ‘Sankalp’ visited Port Darwin in the first week of December 2014 and two Indian ships, INS Satpura and INS Kamorta visited Fremantle Port, Perth, in the first week of June 2015 as a goodwill visit. Indian Naval Offshore Patrol vessel ‘Sumitra’ visited Sydney on 4-7 November 2016 and Darwin on 6-9 December 2016. The first-ever Bilateral Maritime Exercise, AUSINDEX 15, was conducted in Visakhapatnam and the Bay of Bengal in September 2015. Australian Naval ship HMAS Darwin participated in the International Fleet Review conducted off the coast of Vishakhapatnam on 4-8 February 2016. Chief of Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett and a thirty-men military band participated in IFR 2016.

The second bilateral maritime exercise, AUSINDEX 2017 was conducted off the coast of Freemantle, Australia during 17-19 June 2017 in which three Indian Naval Ships, Shivalik, Kamorta and Jyoti participated. Vice-Admiral and Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Naval Command HCS Bisht also visited Australia during this period. AUSINDEX 2019 was held in April 2019 in Visakhapatnam. Indian Coast Guard Ship ‘Vaibhav’ visited Darwin, Australia in February 2017 as part of its tri-nation tour to Singapore, Australia and Malaysia. An Australian Naval ship HMAS Larrakia participated in ‘MILAN’ Naval exercise in Andaman & Nicobar Islands in March 2018. In 2018, Indian Air Force participated for the first time in the Exercise Pitch Black in Australia from 27th July – 17th August. INS Sahyadri participated in Kakadu, the biennial Exercise of the Australian Navy held from 30th August to 15th September, 2018, in which 27 nations participated. The third edition of AUSTRAHIND (Special Forces of Army Exercise) was held in September 2018. In October-November 2020, the Australian Navy participated in Malabar Exercises. India participated in the French-led naval exercises La Perouse in April 2021 in Bay of Bengal along with Australia, USA and Japan. Arrangement concerning Mutual Logistics Support (MLSA) and Implementing Arrangement concerning cooperation in Defence Science and Technology to the MoU on Defence Cooperation were concluded during the Virtual Summit held in June 2020.

Agriculture, Science & Technology

An Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF), which was established in 2006, supports collaboration between scientists in India and Australia on cutting-edge research. AISRF consists of India Australia Biotechnology Fund; India-Australia Science & Technology Fund; Grand Challenge Fund and Fellowship Schemes. The fund, where each side contributes equally, supports large-scale research projects designed to deliver practical solutions, focussing on energy, food and water security, health and the environment. Joint Committees on S&T and Biotechnology have been established to administer the Fund. The fifth meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) on cooperation in Agriculture was held virtually on 3 December 2020. The JWG meeting on cooperation in Water Resources was held virtually on 22 September 2020. The last JWG meeting on Science and Technology was held in Canberra in September 2019. Pursuant to the commitment made by India and Australia during the Virtual Leaders' Summit in June 2020, to have AISRF Special COVID-19 Round in 2020, the AISRF Covid-19 special round projects (on Covid19 screening & diagnostic testing and cardiac marker) were announced in December 2020.

Resources & Energy Security

Shri Piyush Goyal, then Minister of State (I/C) for Coal, Power and New & Renewable Energy, accompanied by a business delegation, visited Australia during 08-11 February 2016 to participate in the India-Australia Energy Security Dialogue, jointly chaired by him and the then Minister of Resources, Energy and Northern Australia Mr. Josh Frydenberg. He also held bilateral talks with Mr. Andrew Robb, the then Minister for Trade and Investment, NSW Premier Mr. Mike Baird and attended the five Roundtable events on Energy Security and renewable energy issues. Shri Goyal again led a delegation to Australia in October 2016 for bilateral discussion with Federal Minister for Resources Mr. Matthew Canavan and addressed the Roundtable events on Clean Energy renewables and LNG. Pursuant to the MoU on cooperation in the field of mining and processing of Critical and Strategic minerals concluded during the Leaders’ Virtual Summit in June 2020, the first meeting of the JWG was held virtually on 26 November 2020.

During her visit to India in July 2017, then Foreign Minister Ms. Julie Bishop signed a framework agreement for Australia to join the International Solar Alliance, led by the Governments of India and France. In December 2017, the Australian government formally ratified the agreement. Australia is one of the Founding Members of both ISA as well as the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI). Australia has also expressed support for India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI).

Education, Sports, Art & Culture

The Joint Working Group on Education between the two countries has identified several key areas for co-operation, including collaborative research in education policy, student exchange programmes, capacity building in vocational education and distance learning in higher education. Pursuant to the signing of the new Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training, the Joint Working Group Meeting between India (Ministry for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship) and Australia (Dept. of Education, Skills and Employment) was held virtually on 26 November 2020.

Australia-India Education Council: Shri Prakash Javadekar, Minister for Human Resource Development (HRM) visited Australia from June 28 to July 03, 2018 to participate in the fourth meeting of Australia-India Education Council (AIEC). Australia's Education Minister Den Tehan led a delegation of senior leaders from the education sector to India from 19 - 21 November 2019 and held meeting with Minister for Human Resource Development Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’. He also co-chaired the fifth Australia-India Education Council meeting along with his Indian counterpart in New Delhi.

An MoU on Cooperation in Sports was signed during visit of former PM Turnbull to India in April 2017. An MoU in the field of Tourism was signed between the two countries during the visit of PM Modi to Australia in November 2014. JWG meeting on tourism was held in April 2019 in Australia.

Confluence, the Festival of India in Australia was held in 2016 and Confluence 2 was held in 2017. Hon. Dr. Mahesh Sharma, the then Minister of State (I/C) for Culture and Tourism visited Australia on 18-19 September 2016 for the inauguration of the Festival.

Repatriation of Indian Cultural Artifacts: A number of artifacts have been successfully repatriated to India in recent years. They include Bronze Idol of Nataraja from Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) (2019), Nagaraja stone sculpture (2020), two Dwarpala stone sculptures (2020).

Consular Cooperation

The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and the Extradition Treaty between India and Australia, which were signed in June 2008, have been ratified by both Governments, and have entered into force on 20 January 2011. A Joint Working Group on Visas, Passports, and Consular Matters was established during the visit of Foreign Minister Stephen Smith to India in September 2008. India and Australia signed a Social Security Agreement on the eve of Hon. PM’s visit to Australia in November 2014. The Agreement has been ratified by both countries and came into force with effect from 1 January 2016.

Indian Community in Australia

The Indian community in Australia continues to grow in size and importance, with the population of about seven hundred thousand. India is one of the top sources of skilled immigrants to Australia. The number of Indian students continue to grow with approximately 105,000 students presently studying in Australian universities. After England, India is the second largest migrant group in Australia in 2020. The growing significance of the community is reflected in the large-scale celebration of Indian festivals in Australia, especially Deepawali.

May 2021

 

 

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