Financial Express | 7 September 2022
The ECTA not just a trade deal but an outcome of larger systemic confidence with Australia: S Jaishankar
by Manish Kumar Jha
India Australia leadership dialogue is taking place and the relations have shifted gears and moved into a higher orbit, says EAM Jaishankar. The Australia–India defence relationship now ranges almost every major function of the military, including strategic dialogues, coordination, and military exercises involving ground, air and maritime forces.
A new intensity in the interactions have been on visible display from the leadership level. “In recent months, we have produced agreements ranging from maritime collaboration, defence science exchanges, mutual logistics support to cooperation in cyber-enabled critical technology, critical and strategic minerals,” said External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, talking about the new direction and strategic collaboration between India and Australia.
External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar was addressing the Australia-India Leadership Dialogue 2022 (September 05, 2022) on the 5th edition of the Australia-India Leadership Dialogue (AILD) along with, Foreign Minister of Australia Penny Wong.
India Australia leadership dialogue is taking place as India Australia relations have shifted gears and moved into a higher orbit.
“In what today seems like history, the ambitions for our ties were expressed initially by the India Economic Strategy Report 2035 released by the Australian side and the CII Australia Economic Strategy issued by India,” said S Jaishankar.
A trade of US$20 billion plus and investments at the US$25 billion level stand to rapidly expand by the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement that was concluded in April 2022. Australia is a major educational destination for Indian students, who number in excess of 100,000. The Indian community, estimated at 720,000, is a source of strength for both societies.
He highlighted that it is really in the realm of politics and strategy that the transformation has been the sharpest. Much of the growing convergence has been driven by concerns about the region’s stability, prosperity and security.
“The deficit in global goods has sought to be addressed by India and Australia working together bilaterally as well as in larger formats. This reflects their shared concerns about respect for international law and a rules-based order,” Jaishankar pointed out.
Australia has been an early and vigorous supporter of India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI). In fact, the big change has been the realization that a stronger bilateral relationship today allows the two nations to contribute much more effectively at a regional and at a global level.
Jaishankar explained that the two countries may have long interacted in ASEAN-led forums, Commonwealth, Indian Ocean Rim Association, etc. But stronger leadership and more open exchanges have brought out the mutual benefits of closer cooperation and coordination.
Recalling the talks during the QUAD session, he said: “It is remarkable that the first interaction between our Prime Ministers happened literally a day after the current Australian one took office. It is equally notable that our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership now covers an annual meeting of PMs, a Foreign Minister’s Dialogue, a 2+2 Defence and Foreign Ministers meeting, a Trade Ministerial Commission, an Education Council, an Energy Dialogue and sectoral Working Groups.”
These milestones bring out the interactive dynamic between the bilateral and the regional facets of our cooperation.
Defense and Security
One of the important hallmarks of India -Australia bilateral relations is the Exercise Malabar. Australia’s re-entry in the naval exercise led to the greater political confidence and stronger defence cooperation. Besides, both nations collaborated on space applications front which has led to the Australian support for the temporary Telemetry Tracking and Command Centre for the Gaganyaan Mission of India.
The Australia–India defence relationship now ranges almost every major function of the military: strategic dialogues, coordination, and information exchanges; military exercises involving ground, air and maritime forces; exchanges and training; and defence scientific and technological cooperation. This adds to growing interoperability that is about the advancement in security relations.
Recalling the cooperation during the Covid led crisis, EAM Jaishankar remarked: “In many ways, the fall-out of the pandemic and the demands of governance have accelerated the pace of digitization. How to optimize the opportunities and challenges that emerge is a never-ending process. It is but natural that this conference’s security perspective should focus on cyber security and AI.”
In June 2020, Australia and India upgraded their Secretaries 2+2 dialogue (Defence and Foreign Affairs) to the Ministerial level. Ministers from the two countries will meet at least every two years to engage on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Last year also saw the first virtual summit meeting between Australia’s former Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two leaders then elevated the relations to the level of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
Australia is holding a massive military exercise–Pitch Black 2022 which is is a war-gaming exercise where threats are simulated in a controlled environment to test force integration, interoperability and readiness. The exercise is underway in Northern Australia. India is participating with full contingent. India’s participation was additionally significant for staging the first mid-air refuelling of an IAF combat aircraft (Su-30MKI) by an RAAF aircraft (KC-30A), revealing a degree of coordination not previously demonstrated.
The exercise is hosting about 2,500 personnel and up to 100 aircraft including participants from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, UAE, US and UK.
Mutual Logistic Support Arrangement (MLSA)
The Mutual Logistic Support Arrangement (MLSA) was concluded in 2020 during the virtual summit between Australia’s former Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The agreement opens up more sophisticated operational cooperation, enabling increasingly complex military engagement, and greater combined responsiveness to regional humanitarian disasters. Besides, bioth countries also inked the the Defence Science and Technology Implementing Arrangement (DSTIA) facilitates interaction between our defence research organisations.
A shared concern about trade reliability and economic volatility resulted in greater integration and partnership on the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative, along with Japan.
On April 2, 2022, India, and Australia signed the India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA), aggreging to remove trade barriers.
“The ECTA was not just a trade deal; it was an outcome of larger systemic confidence that we now see,” he remarked.
The pact is expected to increase bilateral trade in goods and services from the existing US$ 27.5 billion to US$ 45 billion in five years. Under this treaty, Australia would provide zero duty access to India amounting to 96.4 per cent of exports to Australia, for textiles, leather, furniture, jewellery, machinery and selected medical equipment; while India would offer zero duty access up to 85 per cent of Australia’s export to Indian market comprising coal, wool, almonds, lentils etc. Apart from increased trade and economic cooperation, IndAus ECTA will further deepen the people-to-people contacts between the two countries by expanding work, study and travel opportunities.
The contours of Indo- Australian bilateral relations began to grow out of Tokyo Quad Summit as it provided an opportunity to confirm, if confirmation was indeed needed, that the incoming Albanese Government was just as committed to the bilateral relationship, as indeed to the Quad, as its predecessor. Ministers will soon plan to meet in New York very shortly.
The formation of the Quad has certainly a larger context for deepening relations. He sought to confirm that he Indo-Pacific, in particular, will benefit from the fruits of our collaboration. The Quad, on its part has emerged as a key platform progress, prosperity, stability and security. He also referred to advancing the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. India, trilaterally, along with Japan, are working on supply chain resilience.