India’s global initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure have been backed by Australia, which has also backed India’s membership of an expanded UN Security Council.
In the first-ever ‘bilateral’ virtual meeting between India and Australia on Thursday will be focused on deepening of the defence relations as well as a shared approach to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. Also topping the agenda of the talks includes investments and trade, reviewing the broad framework of the relationship between the two countries as well fight against COVID-19. Sources have confirmed to Financial Express Online that “Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be holding a ‘bilateral’ Virtual Summit with a foreign leader – the Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia. The visit of the Australian leader earlier this year had to be postponed due to huge fires in that country and visit was scheduled for May. However, due to the global lockdown, the visit again had to be pushed to June 4, which will be happening virtually.”
The Australian leader already has had a bilateral virtual summit with Singapore in March this year.
The two countries have been working towards having deeper cooperation in critical and strategic minerals, as Australia has huge deposits of minerals, including rare earth metals. At the end of the talks between the two leaders several agreements including one on mutual sharing of military logistics facilities are likely to be virtually inked.
The focus of the Virtual Summit
The two leaders have already met physically on four different occasions.
In its White Paper on Foreign Policy -2017, Australia has recognised India as the “pre-eminent maritime power among Indian Ocean countries” and a “front-rank partner of Australia”.
To further strengthen strategic cooperation between the two countries, over the last five years there have been several new initiatives and bilateral/trilateral mechanisms such as Foreign Secretaries and Defence Secretaries 2+ 2 Dialogue, India-Australia-Indonesia Trilateral Dialogue, India-Australia-Japan Trilateral Dialogue has been established.
The first bilateral naval exercise ‘AUSINDEX’ took place in 2015 which was focussed at deepening defence and maritime cooperation especially in the Indian Ocean.
This was followed by the third AUSINDEX – 2019 was held in the Bay of Bengal in April 2019. Also, AUSTRAHIND, bilateral Army exercises conducted between two countries, also started in 2016. The fourth iteration of AUSTRAHIND was held in September 2019 in Australia.
According to sources at the plurilateral level, India’s global initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure have been backed by Australia, which has also backed India’s membership of an expanded UN Security Council and given support to the membership of the Australia Group and Wassenaar Arrangement.
The current trade levels are $ 20.92 (2018-19). India exported goods and services worth $ 5.17 billion and imported goods and services worth $ 15.75 in 2018-19. Also, Australian Pension Fund has invested $ 1 billion in India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund.