Melbourne: Intending to radically reshape its ties with India, Australia has endorsed a new strategic plan that proposes a raft of measures, including active diplomatic support for New Delhi’s bid for a permanent seat in an expanded UN Security Council and negotiating an FTA.
The submission by Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was endorsed by a full Cabinet, The Australian reported on 20 August.
The strategy contains specific initiatives and is designed to elevate the India relationship to a core element in Australia’s international orientation, along with the US, Japan, China and Indonesia, it said.
Apart from allowing the export of uranium - approval for which was announced last week by Howard - the recommendations include formal and active diplomatic support for India’s bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
This is a move that indicates Canberra’s elevation of India to core relationship status, the daily said.
Australia has been a supporter of Japan becoming a permanent member of the Security Council and the Howard Government in the past has also suggested Indonesia should acquire such status.
Apart from the obvious synergy in energy trade, the familiar common-law system in India and its dazzling success in IT mean that a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) should also provide enormous opportunities for Australian companies in the services sector which could be worth billions of dollars, the daily said.
Surprised at how rapidly the Indian economy has grown, the Conservative government of Prime Minister John Howard wants to enhance relations with the country.
The Cabinet submission recognises India’s growing importance to Australia, given its growing economic and strategic power. It also notes India’s increased engagement with East Asia and the Pacific and Australia’s rapidly growing trade ties.
As well as attempting to negotiate an FTA with India, Canberra will continue its fully fledged engagement in the quadrilateral talks involving the US, Japan and India, despite Chinese opposition.
Much of the submission is devoted to the sale of energy to India. It envisages elevating the joint working group on minerals and energy to ministerial level as a key tool in managing the energy relationship.
The submission contains a wide range of proposals for enhanced security co-operation with the chief being joint naval exercises, intensified co-operation in counter- terrorism, peacekeeping, all aspects of maritime security and greater engagement on border and transport security.
A permanent presence in New Delhi by the Australian Federal Police is also being sought. All these recommendations were accepted by cabinet.
Australia is also looking at establishing an Indian studies centre that would parallel the American Studies Centre, which is being set up at Sydney University.
Similarly, it is giving consideration to the establishment of an Australia-India forum for government, business and other leaders to promote bilateral co-operation.