Laying foundation of strong and more resilient Indian Ocean

January 08, 2019 2:51 AM

In recent months, the Australian government has outlined a bold vision for stepping up engagement with the Pacific and South East Asia. This

Laying foundation of strong and more resilient Indian Ocean

Marise Payne

In recent months, the Australian government has outlined a bold vision for stepping up engagement with the Pacific and South East Asia. This is deepening our relationship with the people of the Indo-Pacific and is helping build a stronger, more resilient neighbourhood. Our engagement with ASEAN is going from strength to strength, as witnessed by the historic ASEAN-Australia Leaders’ Summit in Sydney in March and the Prime Minister’s November summit with ASEAN leaders in Singapore.

Just as we are delivering in the Pacific and South East Asia, we are also deepening Australia’s engagement in the Indian Ocean, which is experiencing rapid economic change and increased strategic competition. The Indian Ocean is of vital importance to Australia’s interests in the Indo-Pacific. The region is home to 40% of the world’s population, and five of our top-20 trading partners. Australia’s blue economy, which includes the Indian Ocean, contributes close to $50 billion per year to our economy, through offshore oil & gas, tourism, aquaculture, shipping and commercial fishing. By 2025, we expect this figure to be close to $100 billion per year.

India is set to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2030, and reaching this goal will see India as a key driver of continued global economic growth. There is no other market that will offer as many opportunities over the next two decades than India. In November, with India’s President Ram Nath Kovind in Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison committed to implementing the India Economic Strategy, a comprehensive blueprint for Australia to realise the benefits of India’s enormous economic potential over the coming decades.
Australia has appointed Ministerial Champions for the lead sectors of education, agribusiness, resources and tourism. Australia excels in these areas, and our expertise can help complement India’s continued economic growth.

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At this week’s Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, I will outline Australia’s commitment to support a secure, open, inclusive and prosperous Indian Ocean. Australia is taking a multi-tiered approach, investing more bilaterally, regionally and through mini-lateral forums, to shape the strategic and economic environment in the Indian Ocean region for the benefit of all nations.

The Indian Ocean region will be the focus for Australia’s Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 (IPE19), our largest annual naval deployment, with five ships and 1,400 personnel. Engagement with India will be the cornerstone for IPE19, with our bilateral navy exercise AUSINDEX at its centre.

Moreover, the scale of defence engagement between Australia and India has grown significantly in recent years. In 2014, Australian and India conducted 11 major defence activities together; in 2018, this figure has climbed to 38.

This reflects the growing convergence between Australian and Indian interests across the spectrum, including on strategic and economic cooperation.

At a regional level, Australia has been investing considerable effort strengthening the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), the region’s only ministerial-level forum and which includes 22 member states. The IORA is an important vehicle for advancing cooperation in maritime safety and security, women’s economic empowerment and the blue economy. We are also active participants in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium and the Heads of Asian Coastguard Agencies Meeting, which we will chair in 2020.

Australia is pursuing new and innovative mini-lateral initiatives to build the web of regional cooperation. We have been working with India and Indonesia to explore avenues for increased trilateral cooperation in the Indian Ocean, just as we have been doing with India and Japan. We are also working quadrilaterally with India, Japan and the US, in support of a resilient, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
Australia believes the Indian Ocean region can be ambitious in the development of its architecture and an enduring sense of community. ASEAN provides a positive example of how regional groupings of diverse nations can facilitate greater cooperation, and its success may be a useful template for the Indian Ocean nations to explore. Through our multi-tiered approach to increasing our engagement, we’re helping lay foundations for a stronger and more resilient region that can address tomorrow’s challenges.

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