The Australian envoy here has asserted that India and Australia are “champions” of the international rules-based order which, she claimed, is coming under increasing pressure from issues such as China’s action in the South China Sea. Delivering the annual Alfred Deakin Lecture here last night, Australian High Commissioner Harinder Sidhu also said the “shift of global power” from the West to the East is one of the megatrends, well underway. Right now, the Indo-Pacific is witnessing the “greatest shift” in power relativities in the world.
Economic success that presents opportunities for growth and prosperity also translates into larger strategic investments in the Indo-Pacific, she said. “It is easy to see how developments such as these can generate uncertainty, anxiety and a risk of miscalculation. This is why Australia and India are such champions of the international rules-based order,” Sidhu said. A copy of her speech was released by the Australian High Commission today. “This is an order that has been underpinned by shared values of freedom and liberty and the principles of international law, agreed mechanisms to resolve disputes and a respect for the sovereign equality of all states – whether big or small,” she said.
“It is in our shared interest to see this international order endure,” the envoy said, while delivering the lecture on ‘Australia and India – natural partners in an uncertain world’. “However, it is coming under increasing pressure. For instance, China’s actions in the South China Sea are confronting the rules we have lived by for decades. North Korea’s continued missile testing is raising risks to stability in the region,” the envoy said.
A “narrow conception” of national interests is driving a more transactional approach to negotiations and an inclination toward unilateral action, Sidhu said. “Like India, Australia is committed to supporting the United Nations system and regional forums such as the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum and IORA,” she added. But it is increasingly clear that these forums have their constraints and are not usually quick enough to coordinate responses to the “challenges we are facing”, she said. “So, we need some imaginative diplomacy,” the envoy added.
On trade ties, the High Commissioner said, at the bilateral level, “we remain committed to Free Trade Agreements including to concluding a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement(CECA) with India”. “Beyond the CECA, we need to look at all the ways that our two countries can build our economic relationship for the future. Prime Minister Turnbull has commissioned the development of an India Economic Strategy,” she said. During her speech at the Australia India Institute, the envoy also touched upon several other points, including protectionism and trade liberalisation, climate change and women rights.
“India and Australia share a commitment to advancing gender equality in all aspects of life – in politics, in business, in education and at home,” she asserted. “Indians and Australians genuinely look at the world through a similar lens. This creates an important foundation for us to cooperate and build a shared future in a world that is prosperous, stable and secure,” she said.