GP Insights # 364, 6 June 2020
On 4 June, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison had a virtual summit; the bilateral strategic partnership concluded in 2009 has been elevated as the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP). The leaders concluded nine agreements including a Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) and issued a joint declaration on a shared vision for maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
The MLSA would allow military ships and aircrafts to refuel and access maintenance facilities at each other’s military bases. Other agreements announced included a framework arrangement on cyber technology, an MoU on mining and processing critical and strategic minerals including rare earth minerals.
What is the background?
First, the growing Australian interest in the Indo Pacific. Strategic ties between India and Australia have gained momentum in recent years as Canberra’s interest in the Indian Ocean and the Indo Pacific gained prominence over the years. There has been an increase in deployment of warships and submarines by China in the Indian Ocean, which has paved way for a strategic competition in the region. Today, there is an Australian interest in seeking new partners of cooperation in the region.
Second, a deepening strategic partnership. As India and Australia recommenced talks over the India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), the relationship has moved beyond the geo-economics to be all-encompassing. India has repeatedly sought Australia’s support for its candidacy for permanent membership in UNSC and the Nuclear Suppliers Group. In return, Australia has looked to India as a key player in the Quad and the Indo Pacific.
Third is increasing people to people linkages. The Indian diaspora is the second largest in Australia with Canberra hosting the most number in its educational institutions.
What does it mean?
First, the cooperation between India and Australia will ensure a geopolitical advantage in the Indo Pacific. Australia’s strategic partnership with India is a step towards a rule-based governance in the region.
Second, the benefits from economic cooperation may not be realized by either of the countries due to the economic downturn and further backlash from the pandemic. However, India would gain extensively, especially in the energy sector and in combating climate change. The joint exercises in the Indo Pacific will intensify the parternship.