India-Australia Relations

Gautam

Team StratFront
Feb 16, 2019
11,999
8,135
Tripura, NE, India
ScoMo's authentic Aussie foreign policy takes shape
The PM's shrimp-on-the-barbie Aussie conservatism already seems to be paying dividends in the region.

Rory Medcalf
Jul 1, 2019 — 11.00pm

From a framing speech in Sydney to G20 diplomacy in Osaka, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is fast putting down markers for Australian foreign policy.

Amid the vicissitudes of global economic and strategic tensions, he is developing a world view with large horizons and some clear guiding principles.

These include a rejection both of fatalism and simple binary choices. It will be all the way neither with Trump’s America nor Xi’s China.


Mates together ... Scott Morrison, right, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Alex Ellinghausen

Instead, there is a welcome emphasis on Australia’s agency as an independent middle power, and the strength we can sustain by combining security at home with many-sided engagement abroad.

His Sydney speech last week was more subtle than its title, "Where We Live". It presented an expansive and inclusive vision of Australia’s region – the Indo-Pacific – grounded in an affirmation of liberal democratic values as part of this nation’s identity.

This confirms a bipartisan continuity and evolution in strategic thinking going back at least to the official introduction of the Indo-Pacific concept under then prime minister Julia Gillard in 2013.

Australia’s Indo-Pacific strategy is not inherently anti-China. But nor is about ignoring or accepting China’s efforts to dominate the wider region.

Instead, as Morrison has confirmed, Australia seeks to navigate a future based on shared principles, sovereignty and mutual respect among many players, including Japan, India, the 10 states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and our neighbourhood "family" in the South Pacific.

The Indo-Pacific recognises that both economic connectivity and strategic competition are encompassing the two-ocean region around us, and that we can protect our interests through new partnerships across the blurring of old geographic boundaries.

None of this is to deny the enormous collateral impact of the US-China contest. In Osaka, all eyes were on where Donald Trump and Xi Jinping would take the immediate trade war dimension of long-term strategic and technology rivalry.

They reached a tactical truce. But Trump’s partial resumption of American commercial relations with Chinese telecommunications champion Huawei does not fundamentally change the policy landscape for Canberra.

In an act of sovereign national security policy, the Australian government has prohibited that company’s involvement in the critical 5G network.

To reconsider this decision on the basis of the latest moment of Trumpian transactionalism would be contrary to the very notion of independent foreign policy that alliance sceptics espouse. America’s more direct national security restrictions on Huawei remain in place. In a sense, America has now moved closer to Australia’s position on Huawei.

The point of middle power diplomacy is not to ignore the power play of the American and Chinese leaders, but to cope with it.

Morrison’s pre-summit dinner last week with Trump was valuable not only as a chance to try to influence America but to demonstrate to others that Australia matters – and that being a US ally increases our access, relevance and agency.

The prime minister’s other connections in Osaka showed the web our diplomacy must sustain. The conversation with Xi was brief but notable. Morrison also met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

We may cringe at Abe publicly calling his guest “ScoMo” or at Modi’s viral tweet, “Mate! I’m stoked at the energy of our bilateral relationship”. Yet like it or not, it may well be that a stereotypically Australian shrimp-on-the-barbie conservatism proves an unexpected asset for the nation’s diplomacy. And the underlying reality is that Japan and India increasingly take Australia seriously.

The G20 was also a chance also to cross paths with the leaders of Indonesia, Vietnam and France: significant partners in the emerging multipolarity.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo is working with Australia and others, however desperately, for the survival of a rules-based system of free trade.

Less high-profile has been Indonesia’s work within ASEAN to secure consensus on a Southeast Asia vision of the Indo-Pacific, sharing common principles with Australia’s.

These regional complexities provide a nuanced context for Australian decision-makers when they encounter the foreign policy debate at home.

For instance, celebrated strategic thinker Hugh White has urged Morrison to openly oppose an American "Cold War" against China.

White has a new book with a stark premise that America cannot win a serious strategic competition with China in the Indo-Pacific, and that when it comes to defending Australia, will leave us to our own devices.

Perhaps this is one of the binaries the prime minister rejects.

Another intriguing intervention is the work of Sydney-based think tank China Matters, which has released a "new China narrative" for Australia.

It’s a detailed statement of the many opportunities and limitations in Australia-China relations, from expansion of trade and investment alongside fundamental differences over values.

The China Matters initiative may understandably have set out to offset the unsettling edges of the Turnbull government’s pushback against interference by the authoritarian Chinese state.

But in response to public consultations, the "new China narrative" ends up acknowledging a bit of everything – including that Australia needs to work with many countries in Asia to define rules for constraining Chinese behaviour.

In other words, it is not in Australia’s interests to define its future in China-centric terms.

The prime minister seems to recognise that a policy for turbulent times requires a different story – an authentically Australian narrative that ties our destiny to the whole region rather than a single power.

Professor Rory Medcalf is head of the National Security College at the Australian National University.


ScoMo's authentic Aussie foreign policy takes shape
 

RISING SUN

Senior member
Dec 3, 2017
7,306
4,131
Tony Abbott pushes vision for closer India ties
Tony Abbott has declared India “could be the next China” economically and Australia should help create a new democratic global superpower that would not be as politically overbearing as communist China.

In a speech on a free and open Indo-Pacific in New Delhi on Monday, the former prime minister mapped out a vision of India as a democratic superpower alongside the US, and creating a world “more free, more open, more prosperous and ultimately fairer to everyone”.

He said policymakers had neglected engagement with India by putting “too many eggs into the China basket”, and said it must be easier for Australia to develop a “deep commitment” across the board with India than with Beijing.

He blamed years of “intermittent official drive”, benign neglect and a “passion for China” for the Australia-India relationship not being better developed.

Mr Abbott said the way to a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific was for the four great democracies in the region — the US, India, Japan and Australia — to co-operate. The relationship with Beijing was difficult, he said, because of China’s overbearing attitudes and actions over Hong Kong and Taiwan.

He said it was hard to see relations with Beijing rising much above the level of a “cold peace” in the short term and criticised its “confected territorial claims”.

Mr Abbott said there was an official view in Australia that India “was not the next China” but that was not what he believed.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott pays his respect at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
“Why would anyone, especially such a friend of India, be so sure India won’t be the next China, economically?’’ he said.

“Why should Australian officials think that what one country of a billion people could achieve under the dictatorship of the proletariat is impossible in another that has the blessings of democracy, the rule of law and the English language? Unless, of course, they’re closet admirers of a command-market economy, regard the Chinese as somehow superior to everyone else, or don’t want to admit that Australia might have put too many eggs into the China basket.”

Mr Abbott said as prime minister he was pleased to have revived the four-way security talks between Australia, India, Japan and the US and he hoped stalled free-trade agreement talks with India might be revived when Scott Morrison visited India next year. He was also proud of having finalised trade and security agreements with China and wanted the trade relationship with China to continue to grow.

Mr Abbott said given the fast growth of China in economic and trade terms, there was no reason such growth could not occur for India in the coming years.

“In 40 years, India’s GDP has more than quadrupled; it’s the world’s fastest-growing big economy for the past five years; and more than 500 million Indians have uncensored, unmonitored smartphones connecting them to the formal market economy.’’

He said advancing the “great goal” of a free and open Indo-Pacific would require a deepening of the “partnership between the Indo-Pacific’s longest-standing democracies’’.

“A partnership between democracies such as India and Australia should be far easier to build than one between Australia (say) and a one-party communist state like China. Perhaps this is why the relationship between Australia and India, until recently, has largely been taken for granted.”

NoCookies | The Australian
 
  • Like
Reactions: Gautam

RISING SUN

Senior member
Dec 3, 2017
7,306
4,131
India, Australia to hold 2+2 talks next week, focus on PM Morrison’s January visit
India and Australia are set to hold their third combined dialogue of the defence and foreign secretaries on December 9, with the Indo-Pacific and preparations for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s visit next year expected to top the agenda.

This year’s edition of the talks, popularly known as the 2+2 dialogue, assume additional significance as they come months after India, Australia, Japan and the US decided to upgrade their interactions in the “Quadrilateral” format to the ministerial level in September.

Australia’s foreign secretary Frances Adamson and defence secretary Greg Moriarty will meet their Indian counterparts Vijay Gokhale and Ajay Kumar in New Delhi, people familiar with planning for the dialogue said.

“The main focus will be on the bilateral outcomes for Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s visit in January,” said a person who declined to be identified.

“Issues such as defence, maritime, cyber and critical technology cooperation and counter-terrorism cooperation will also be on the agenda,” the person added.

Morrison is visiting India at the invitation of his counterpart Narendra Modi and will deliver the inaugural address at the Raisina Dialogue.

The Indo-Pacific and the situation in the South China Sea, where India and Australia have called for freedom of navigation and overflights in accordance with international rules, are also expected to figure in the discussions, the people cited above said.

All aspects of bilateral relations will be reviewed, with the focus on security and strategic relations.

India has put in place 2+2 dialogues, either at the level of officials or ministers, with several key partners, including Japan and the US. During the maiden India-Japan 2+2 ministerial dialogue, held in New Delhi over the weekend, the two sides called for a “free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region in which the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity are ensured, and all countries enjoy freedom of navigation and overflight”.

India and the US are expected to hold their ministerial 2+2 dialogue in Washington on December 18.
India, Australia to hold 2+2 talks next week, focus on PM Morrison’s January visit
 
  • Like
Reactions: Gautam

RISING SUN

Senior member
Dec 3, 2017
7,306
4,131
India, Australia 'natural partnership' registers steady growth in 2019
The "natural partnership" between India and Australia witnessed a steady growth in 2019 on several fronts, especially in the defence sector primarily due to a common concern about China's increasing military presence in the Indo-Pacific, but differences remained over New Delhi's alleged restrictive trade policies and its stance over a regional free trade pact.

The trade relations also grew between the two sides with the two way trade currently standing at over 29 billion Australian dollars even without a free trade agreement (FTA).

Great strides have been made to develop the bilateral and personal links closer than they were a year ago.

India has been ranked Australia's fourth-largest export market. However, it's still considered to be the most untapped one, much below China, which is at over 194 billion Australian dollars and Japan at over 77 billion Australian dollars.

Australia has identified India as a huge market.

The year 2020 is poised to open on a high note for the bilateral ties with Prime Minister Scott Morrison's first official visit to India in January.

Morrison, who described Australia's relationship with India as a "natural partnership", has said that his upcoming visit to New Delhi "will be another step in cementing India in the top tier of Australia's partnerships".

He also backed the Quadrilateral (Quad) grouping.

In November 2017, India, the US, Australia and Japan gave shape to the long-pending "Quad" Coalition to develop a new strategy for keeping the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence.

China has been trying to expand its military presence in the Indo-Pacific, which is a biogeographic region, comprising the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Ocean, including the South China Sea.

Australia's Opposition Labor Party has also called for enhancing ties with India, signalling bipartisan support for bolstering ties with New Delhi.

Opposition's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong called "Australia's relationship with India as central to the region".

India is set to release its economic strategy for Australia when Morrison will be in New Delhi with a high-level business delegation.

This latest document authored by former diplomat Anil Wadhwa will respond to Australia's India strategy 2018 report prepared by former diplomat Peter Varghese.

On defence front this year, Australia and India's cooperation on shared maritime security interests in the Indian Ocean rose to a new level with the AUSINDEX naval exercise held in April which was a useful step towards more sophisticated interactions in the maritime space.

It involved a large Australian defence task force, matched by India, including submarines and maritime surveillance aircraft from both sides, practising anti-submarine warfare.

Australia's High Commissioner to India Harinder Sidhu called the exercise as a part of the strong and growing Australia-India strategic partnership.

"Australia and India are working together to promote peace and prosperity based on our shared values and interests in a stable, secure, rules-based and inclusive Indo-Pacific," she commented.

Few of the main challenges that continued to bother the relationship were India's trade restrictive agriculture policies and its recent stand on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham recently said Australia was deeply concerned with India's sugar subsidies that, he claimed, were vastly in excess of its limits under WTO rules.

"They have contributed to a decrease in the global price of sugar which is hurting our Australian producers and those elsewhere," he said, adding that even though Australia respected India's decision on the RECP it remained hopeful for it to join when it was ready.

The RCEP is a mega free-trade agreement (FTA) which was negotiated by 16 countries, including India and China.

On November 4 in Bangkok, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the call for not joining the RCEP as India's concerns were not addressed in the pact.

On tourism front, India was ranked the eighth largest inbound tourist market for Australia.

According to Nishant Kashikar, the country manager of Tourism Australia (India), arrivals and spending by Indian tourists were at a double digit due to several factors, including sustained marketing activities, improved bilateral and political relations, but most importantly, the fast growing Indian diaspora of more than 700,000 Down Under.

Kashikar pinpointed that the 2020 would turn bigger for the two sides with Australia hosting the ICC T20 cricket World Cups during which more than 30,000 Indians are expected to travel for the game Down Under.

The year also witnessed the settlement of the decade old legal battle for the controversial Adani coal mine in central Queensland when the billion dollar project received its final environmental approval in June.

In a bid to promote bilateral investment flows, Australia expanded diplomatic presence in India by opening a consulate in Kolkata in March, inked an MoU between Austrade and Invest India to support Australian companies to enter the Indian market and promote bilateral investment flows, established an Australian State Education Forum on India, which met first in August and established an Australia-India Food Partnership.

Even though Australia and India have come a long way, there are still several challenges ahead to take this relationship to the next level, go beyond the curry, cricket and the Commonwealth.
India, Australia 'natural partnership' registers steady growth in 2019
 
  • Informative
Reactions: Gautam

RISING SUN

Senior member
Dec 3, 2017
7,306
4,131
Four Thousand Years Ago Indians Landed in Australia
Genetic evidence suggests that just over 4 millennia ago a group of Indian travellers landed in Australia and stayed. The evidence emerged a few years ago after a group of Aboriginal men’s Y chromosomes matched with Y chromosomes typically found in Indian men. Up until now, the exact details, though, have been unclear.

But Irina Pugach from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology may have recently solved the thousand-year-old case. 4,000 years before the First Fleet landed on our fair shores, Indian adventurers had already settled and were accepted into the Indigenous Australian culture.

By studying the single-nucleotide polymorphisms and their patterns, Dr Pugach revealed a diverse tapestry of ancestry, one different from the lineage of New Guineans or the Philippines. The study found a pattern of SNPs that is only found in Indian genetics, specifically the Dravidian speakers from South India. Dr Pugach’s results were consistent with the Y-chromosome data found years earlier. Using both results she calculated exactly when India arrived in Australia.

Dr Pugach estimates this to be around 2217 BC. An interesting time for both Australia and India. Indian civilisation was just about formed and Australian culture and wildlife were rearranging.

The Indus Valley civilisation (India) emerged between 2600 BC and 1900 BC. During this period, Indus Valley managed to develop seaworthy boats, which they used to trade with their neighbours: The Middle East. This new technology was used to get to Australia.

There is evidence of a shift in technology that coincides with the time Indians were thought to have arrived in Australia. Indigenous Australians switched their palaeolithic crude, stone tools, for neolithic refined tools. Again around about the time India washed up in Australia, the way food was collected and cooked changed, particularly the preparation of the cycad nut. An important source of food for early Australians, the cycad nut is quite toxic until the toxins are drawn out. The indigenous method always involved roasting the nut, but by 2000 BC Indigenous Australians were removing the toxins via water and fermentation. Similarly, the nut, which is found in Kerala in Southern India is commonly dried or roasted. The last rather important piece of evidence that suggests Indian settled in Australia is our beloved dingo.

Image: Wikimedia Commons, A lesson in spinning string, Central Australia.

The dingo has always been an enigma. No one really knows how or why it ended up in Australia. We know it probably exterminated the Tasmanian Tiger on Mainland Australia (apart from the dingo-free island known as Tasmania) and we know it didn’t originate here. The dingo has a striking resemblance to wild dogs found in India and so may have travelled with the first Indian settlers to our Island. However, there are similar looking dogs found in New Guinea and South East Asia.

Whatever the case, modern genetics has highlighted a part of Indigenous Ancestry previously lost to the world.
Makes you think what else we’ll find.
Four Thousand Years Ago Indians Landed in Australia
 
  • Informative
Reactions: Gautam

RISING SUN

Senior member
Dec 3, 2017
7,306
4,131
The push and pull in the India–Australia partnership
One of the problems with the India–Australia relationship is that both countries have a different set of concerns about China.



The India–Australia strategic partnership has grown quite rapidly over the last few years. This is impressive considering how indifferent New Delhi and Canberra were towards each other a decade ago. The change in the tone and direction of the relationship over the past decade is driven by shared concerns about China’s rise and its strategic implications for the Asia Pacific order.

Despite the number of high-level political visits and military exchanges, such as the 2+2 Dialogue, there still remains scepticism about the relationship. Many believe that the shared concerns of both countries have not yet translated into a shared policy approach. Frederic Grare raised this point in 2014, but six years later India and Australia remain unable to forge a coherent strategy or a common policy approach to China.

There has traditionally been some wariness among Australian security analysts about the India–Australia relationship, and vice-versa. But as the threat from China grows, New Delhi and Canberra should find more innovative ways to work together to shape a stable Asian strategic order. The two already work together in larger strategic formulations such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad).

A new wrinkle in the relationship is the Modi government’s identity politics. Many argue that India’s recent internal developments go against the grain of its strategic partnerships — based on shared liberal democratic values.

The two countries are currently finalising a mutual logistics support agreement, an information exchange agreement and a broader maritime agreement.

Whether mutual concerns about China are serious enough to offset worries about the unhelpful direction of India’s internal politics and nurture the budding India–Australia strategic partnership remains to be seen.

Australian officials are very positive about the direction of relations. At the fourth Raisina Dialogue in January 2019, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne noted that as “competition intensifies, Australia and India have shared interests in ensuring the peaceful development of an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo‑Pacific region — a region in which the rights of all states are respected, large and small.”

The signing of a Framework for Security Cooperation between India and Australia in 2014 by Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and then-prime minister Tony Abbott still provides the much-needed impetus for greater security engagement between the two countries.

The two countries are currently finalising a mutual logistics support agreement, an information exchange agreement and a broader maritime agreement. These are expected to increase military interoperability and help ‘elevate’ the strategic partnership.

There remain areas that need greater clarity. One of the problems with the India–Australia relationship is that both countries have a different set of concerns about China. Australian concerns have to do with China’s increased activities in the Pacific, while India is concerned about China’s greater presence and influence in the Indian Ocean. India has also been uncertain about Australia’s reliance since Canberra backed out of the Quad in 2007, though this uncertainty is slowly disappearing. It is equally likely that Canberra has a certain lack of confidence given that New Delhi seems ambiguous about whether to balance or hedge. These differences might partly have to do with strategic histories. Australia has long been an American ally, while India remains uncomfortable about alliances.

Australian concerns have to do with China’s increased activities in the Pacific, while India is concerned about China’s greater presence and influence in the Indian Ocean.

This need not be an impediment to the strategic relationship if the two countries are able to forge their partnership based on some key principles, norms and ideals. Both countries should champion the rule of law, a rules-based order, respect for human rights and norms of responsible behaviour.

The joint naval exercise AUSINDEX (which began in 2015) reflects the convergence of Indian and Australian approaches to maritime and regional security. The two countries conducted the third edition of AUSINDEX in April 2019. The exercise was reported to have been the biggest in terms of the scale of participation from both navies.

The second issue with the relationship is the deficit of military capabilities, especially on the Indian side. While the two militaries have been able to showcase their prowess during exercises, their ability to come to each other’s aid during conflict remains in question. The joint logistics services agreement would go a long way in addressing this issue as it would provide joint access to each other’s military facilities.

Third, there is a need for greater agreement among the Quad member states about burden-sharing. A discussion about the operational aspects of their cooperation would create greater synergy between their forces when dealing with common problems.

The joint logistics services agreement would go a long way in addressing this issue as it would provide joint access to each other’s military facilities.

From an Australian perspective, the fourth and final irritant in the relationship is India’s reluctance to involve Australia in the Malabar trilateral naval exercise alongside the other three Quad nations — India, Japan and the United States. Indian media reports indicate that India might be open to involving Australia at the next Malabar naval exercises scheduled to take place later in the summer.

Indian reluctance to involve Australia in the Malabar exercise has not produced significant negativity towards India, especially given the progress in bilateral relations more broadly. But if India thinks Australia is a legitimate security partner, it must expand the trilateral to include Australia as well. The fact that Australia is included in other bilateral and multinational military exercises should not be an excuse.

The India–Australia strategic partnership has seen impressive advancements in the last few years, but its potential and promise are yet to be fully realised. It will require dedicated attention and political leadership from both capitals to become more than a work in progress going forward.
The push and pull in the India–Australia partnership | ORF
 

RISING SUN

Senior member
Dec 3, 2017
7,306
4,131
India exploring nuts and bolts of possible FTA with Australia
Trade Ministers of both countries, who met last month, are working on what they can offer each other

India is exploring workable components of a possible free trade agreement with Australia, following the visit of Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham to New Delhi last month, when he discussed the advantages of forging such a pact with his Indian counterpart Piyush Goyal.

“Australia already knows about many of our red lines which include dairy and certain agricultural products and seems ready to accept them. That makes it easier for us to negotiate an FTA,” an official said.

The formal decision to launch negotiations for an FTA — officially known as Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) — between India and Australia will be taken after both sides go through what each is ready to offer the other, in a series of video-conference meetings.

“India and Australia both are working on what they can offer each other. Once it is discussed, a decision can be taken on whether negotiations should begin on a CECA,” the official said.

Decision on agreement
In his meeting with Goyal, the Australian Trade Minister said while his country wanted India to re-enter the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations, it was willing to look at India’s proposal of a bilateral pact.

India had exited the RCEP, the 16-member proposed bloc, including the ten-member ASEAN, China, Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan and South Korea, in November 2019 as it was not comfortable with the high levels of market access being sought by other members and inadequate protection against cheap imports from China due to less stringent Rules of Origin norms.

“Both India and Australia are willing to see if the work we have done bilaterally in relation to RCEP could be captured between the two countries. We have asked our officials to look at that,” Birmingham had said in a select media briefing following his meeting with Goyal.

Bilateral pact
Trade between India and Australia trade has grown steeply over the last decade but is heavily skewed in Australia’s favour. In 2018-19, India’s imports from the island-nation were valued at $13.3 billion, while Australia’s imports from India accounted for only at $3.52 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of almost $10 billion.

However, as Birmingham pointed out, the imbalance is mostly due to high imports of coal by India from the country.

India and Australia had started negotiating a bilateral CECA in May 2011, but the talks got suspended in 2015 because of disagreement over issues such as the market access in agriculture and dairy products demanded by Australia.

“If Australia adopts a flexible approach in dairy and agriculture and is willing to accommodate some of our interests in the services sector including easier visa rules for workers, a free trade pact can certainly be worked out,” the official said.
India exploring nuts and bolts of possible FTA with Australia
 
  • Informative
Reactions: Gautam

RISING SUN

Senior member
Dec 3, 2017
7,306
4,131
Islands of opportunity: Where India
and Australia can work together

As India and Australia prepare for a virtual summit next month between prime ministers amid the coronavirus pandemic, a possible strategic initiative could involve the cooperative use of their respective island territories in the Indian Ocean for strategic purposes. India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands and Australia’s Cocos (Keeling) islands are well-positioned to offer significant advantages for both countries.

The strategic relationship between the two countries is currently underdeveloped, despite strong converging interests. One challenge in the relationship comes from differences in priority theatres, with India’s in Indian Ocean and Canberra’s in the Pacific. If New Delhi defines the Pacific as its secondary area of interest then for Canberra the Indian Ocean is its second sea. Capacity limitations on both sides mean there is a challenge in deploying resources in secondary areas of interests.

Access to the Andaman and Nicobar islands would bring Australia to the heart of the Indian Ocean.

A collaborative approach to utilising their island territories in the Indian Ocean could provide an opportunity to address these challenges. These islands are located near strategic chokepoints and trading routes, with the Andaman and Nicobar islands near the straits of Malacca, while the Cocos islands lie in close proximity to the Indonesian straits of Sunda, Lombok, and Ombai-Wetar. Together, these straits are the entry and exit points between the Indian and the Pacific Oceans. In the current geopolitical competition in the Indo-Pacific, these islands can provide advantages for strategic, practical, and signalling purposes.

A key advantage of these islands is surveillance and what are known as Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) missions. While the Malacca straits provides the busiest trading route connecting economies across Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean, the other straits through the Indonesian archipelago offers alternate routes for surface and sub-surface vessels.

The Indian Navy has recently confirmed the growing presence of Chinese ships and submarines in the Indian Ocean, with China reportedly deploying underwater drones in the Indian Ocean for oceanographic survey. These missions also gather critical data (temperature, depth, and salinity of water) necessary for submarine deployment and operations with Beijing carrying out similar surveys in the Pacific Ocean. The Andaman and Nicobar islands and Cocos islands would allow for both expanded and longer MDA missions across these straits. It is of course understood New Delhi and Canberra would have necessary conversations with Jakarta before undertaking any missions over the Indonesian straits.

An RAAF P-8A Poseidon (Defence Department)

Both India and Australia already use their islands for maritime surveillance and reconnaissance missions using P-8 aircraft based in southern India and Australia. A joint coordinated effort utilising island territories through mutual access agreements would allow India and Australia to expand its presence and MDA missions beyond their respective individual capacities.

For India, access will allow for easier monitoring of an expanded area around the Malacca and Indonesian straits, from Andaman and Nicobar islands in the north to Cocos in the south. Tracking submarines in open seas is an extremely difficult task and requires significant resources and capital. Chokepoints provide windows for tracking submarines, making the islands critical assets. These islands provide an opportunity for coordinated and joint anti-submarine warfare missions for both the Indian and the Pacific Oceans.

While Canberra also has staging options in Darwin and Butterworth, Malaysia for surveillance missions, access to the Andaman and Nicobar islands would bring Australia to the heart of the Indian Ocean. It would allow Australia to continue and expand its presence into the Indian Ocean for longer and more complex missions. Access to these islands will not only strengthen Australia’s interests in the eastern Indian Ocean but will also provide a platform to increase its military engagements to the rest of the Indian Ocean – a current challenge in Australia’s Indian Ocean policy. Similarly, India stands to gain strategically with access to Cocos islands, expanding its reach and presence into Southeast Indian Ocean across the Indonesian straits and into the Pacific.

Australian and Indian navy officer hats during an international exercise in 2014 at Port Blair in the Andaman Islands (Defence Department)

There is also a significant signalling advantage to a collaborative approach in using these islands. India-Australia collaboration around a group of strategic islands which have traditionally been closed to each other sends a strong political message across the Indo-Pacific, sending a message of deepening strategic trust between two key players of the Indo-Pacific. Moreover, it is likely Australia will join the MALABAR naval exercises (India-Japan-US) in the near future keeping in line with the frequent and growing diplomatic conversations between India, Australia, Japan and the US, or the Quad.

India and Australia can perhaps begin by using the AUSINDEX as a platform to fly their respective P-8s between the Andaman and Nicobar islands and Cocos islands for a coordinated patrols. This will allow both sides to test logistical and administrative challenges laying the foundation for more complex and sustained missions in the future. This would require political agreement at the highest level.

The India-France relationship provides an example for such collaborations in the Indian Ocean. Earlier this year, Delhi deployed a P-8I maritime patrol aircraft to conduct joint patrols with France from La Reunion, a French overseas department in the Indian Ocean. La Reunion’s location provides access and reach over the western and southwest Indian Ocean, including the Mozambique Channel.

There is potential for India-Australia-France collaboration in using their respective islands to boost their presence under a burden sharing model. Such an approach could eventually be extended to other Indo-Pacific partners such as the US and Japan. Joint collaborations through a burden sharing model might help address capacity and resource constraints.

The upcoming summit between Narendra Modi and Scott Morrison will likely include the execution of a long-awaited mutual access and logistics facilities agreement similar to India’s existing arrangements with the US and France. This will signal political will and smooth out administrative and logistical challenges, should New Delhi and Canberra choose to expand its strategic collaborations to island territories.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Gautam

Gautam

Team StratFront
Feb 16, 2019
11,999
8,135
Tripura, NE, India
Islands of opportunity: Where India
and Australia can work together

As India and Australia prepare for a virtual summit next month between prime ministers amid the coronavirus pandemic, a possible strategic initiative could involve the cooperative use of their respective island territories in the Indian Ocean for strategic purposes. India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands and Australia’s Cocos (Keeling) islands are well-positioned to offer significant advantages for both countries.

The strategic relationship between the two countries is currently underdeveloped, despite strong converging interests. One challenge in the relationship comes from differences in priority theatres, with India’s in Indian Ocean and Canberra’s in the Pacific. If New Delhi defines the Pacific as its secondary area of interest then for Canberra the Indian Ocean is its second sea. Capacity limitations on both sides mean there is a challenge in deploying resources in secondary areas of interests.

Access to the Andaman and Nicobar islands would bring Australia to the heart of the Indian Ocean.

A collaborative approach to utilising their island territories in the Indian Ocean could provide an opportunity to address these challenges. These islands are located near strategic chokepoints and trading routes, with the Andaman and Nicobar islands near the straits of Malacca, while the Cocos islands lie in close proximity to the Indonesian straits of Sunda, Lombok, and Ombai-Wetar. Together, these straits are the entry and exit points between the Indian and the Pacific Oceans. In the current geopolitical competition in the Indo-Pacific, these islands can provide advantages for strategic, practical, and signalling purposes.

A key advantage of these islands is surveillance and what are known as Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) missions. While the Malacca straits provides the busiest trading route connecting economies across Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean, the other straits through the Indonesian archipelago offers alternate routes for surface and sub-surface vessels.

The Indian Navy has recently confirmed the growing presence of Chinese ships and submarines in the Indian Ocean, with China reportedly deploying underwater drones in the Indian Ocean for oceanographic survey. These missions also gather critical data (temperature, depth, and salinity of water) necessary for submarine deployment and operations with Beijing carrying out similar surveys in the Pacific Ocean. The Andaman and Nicobar islands and Cocos islands would allow for both expanded and longer MDA missions across these straits. It is of course understood New Delhi and Canberra would have necessary conversations with Jakarta before undertaking any missions over the Indonesian straits.

An RAAF P-8A Poseidon (Defence Department)

Both India and Australia already use their islands for maritime surveillance and reconnaissance missions using P-8 aircraft based in southern India and Australia. A joint coordinated effort utilising island territories through mutual access agreements would allow India and Australia to expand its presence and MDA missions beyond their respective individual capacities.

For India, access will allow for easier monitoring of an expanded area around the Malacca and Indonesian straits, from Andaman and Nicobar islands in the north to Cocos in the south. Tracking submarines in open seas is an extremely difficult task and requires significant resources and capital. Chokepoints provide windows for tracking submarines, making the islands critical assets. These islands provide an opportunity for coordinated and joint anti-submarine warfare missions for both the Indian and the Pacific Oceans.

While Canberra also has staging options in Darwin and Butterworth, Malaysia for surveillance missions, access to the Andaman and Nicobar islands would bring Australia to the heart of the Indian Ocean. It would allow Australia to continue and expand its presence into the Indian Ocean for longer and more complex missions. Access to these islands will not only strengthen Australia’s interests in the eastern Indian Ocean but will also provide a platform to increase its military engagements to the rest of the Indian Ocean – a current challenge in Australia’s Indian Ocean policy. Similarly, India stands to gain strategically with access to Cocos islands, expanding its reach and presence into Southeast Indian Ocean across the Indonesian straits and into the Pacific.

Australian and Indian navy officer hats during an international exercise in 2014 at Port Blair in the Andaman Islands (Defence Department)

There is also a significant signalling advantage to a collaborative approach in using these islands. India-Australia collaboration around a group of strategic islands which have traditionally been closed to each other sends a strong political message across the Indo-Pacific, sending a message of deepening strategic trust between two key players of the Indo-Pacific. Moreover, it is likely Australia will join the MALABAR naval exercises (India-Japan-US) in the near future keeping in line with the frequent and growing diplomatic conversations between India, Australia, Japan and the US, or the Quad.

India and Australia can perhaps begin by using the AUSINDEX as a platform to fly their respective P-8s between the Andaman and Nicobar islands and Cocos islands for a coordinated patrols. This will allow both sides to test logistical and administrative challenges laying the foundation for more complex and sustained missions in the future. This would require political agreement at the highest level.

The India-France relationship provides an example for such collaborations in the Indian Ocean. Earlier this year, Delhi deployed a P-8I maritime patrol aircraft to conduct joint patrols with France from La Reunion, a French overseas department in the Indian Ocean. La Reunion’s location provides access and reach over the western and southwest Indian Ocean, including the Mozambique Channel.

There is potential for India-Australia-France collaboration in using their respective islands to boost their presence under a burden sharing model. Such an approach could eventually be extended to other Indo-Pacific partners such as the US and Japan. Joint collaborations through a burden sharing model might help address capacity and resource constraints.

The upcoming summit between Narendra Modi and Scott Morrison will likely include the execution of a long-awaited mutual access and logistics facilities agreement similar to India’s existing arrangements with the US and France. This will signal political will and smooth out administrative and logistical challenges, should New Delhi and Canberra choose to expand its strategic collaborations to island territories.

Excellent article. Will take it to twitter. Thank you.