India-Australia have upgraded their bilateral ties to Strategic Ties in 2009 and are working to further strengthen them.
Historically being a part of the British Empire, the India- Australia ties date back to the beginning of the 18th century. The entire trade in this former British colony was carried by the British East India Company. Economic relations between the two nations date back to the late 18th century and early 19th century, when the horses from New South Wales and coal from Sydney was exported to India.
The India-Australia relations hit a low during the cold war when the two sides were on almost different platforms with India following the Soviet Union and Australia its Capitalist friends. The relations took a turn for the worse after India declined to sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the following development of India’s indigenous Nuclear Weapons program. Australia became a staunch critic of India’s policies and was skeptical of India’s prudence in handling nuclear weapons.
However, after the Indian economy witnessed liberalization in 1991, the relations between India-Australia started to improve and the new millennium saw a paradigm shift in India-Australia relations. Australia’s image of India as an imprudent state went through a seaward change and both the countries started reinvigorating their ties. Australia acted as a mediator between India and USA in signing of the famous Indo-US nuclear deal, which was opposed by many “India friendly” countries in the NSG.
On the trade front as well, the commerce between the two countries is booming as has been never before. Both the countries are near finalising a Free Trade Agreement, which would further ease the flow of goods and services across both nations.
The recent visit of Prime Minister Tony Abbott to India has further cemented the India-Australia ties and has taken them to new heights. Australia is today a staunch advocate of India as a nuclear state and is advocating its entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The recently concluded nuclear deal with India is the first by Australia outside the NSG with Australia agreeing to export Uranium to India. The nuclear deal has been passed by Australia’s parliament and would be signed shortly with India. Australia has the world’s largest proven Uranium reserves, sitting handsomely over 31% of total world’s reserves. On the other hand, India is keen on increasing the share of Nuclear Power in its energy mix and providing some respite to power crunch industries and societies.
This deal has seen development in energy ties between India-Australia. Australia has the 4th largest proven coal reserves of the world. Australia is also the world’s largest exporter of coal and currently India is facing a coal crunch following lower production levels due to domestic turmoil. The Australian government has given the go ahead to Adani group’s $ 16.5 Billion project in Queensland to develop the Carmichoel coal field. This would act as a reliable source of coal for India for the next half a century. Although the project is facing a few problems from the environmentalists, but Adani Group and the Australian government has shown resolve to go ahead with it.
India-Australia share common passions of sports like hockey and cricket. The legacy of both these sports date back to the British Empire from where both these countries have inherited it. The world is evident of the great cricketers India and Australia have given to the world. From the likes of Don Bradman and Sunil Gavaskar, the new generation players like Brett Lee, Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar, India-Australia have always had friendly cricketing ties. These ties have been cemented by various domestic cricketing leagues like IPL and Big Bash.
India-Australia have been involved in building up defense ties over the past decade. Both have under taken joint naval exercises in the Indian Ocean along with Japan and United States. The exercises were termed as Malabar. The Prime Ministers of the two countries jointly issued a statement on defense cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. The Asia-Pacific region has seen escalating tensions due to the Chinese claims over the resources of South China Sea and its muscle flexing with other littoral states. India-Australia are also a part of Indian Ocean Rim Association for the joint development and freedom of navigation in the Indian ocean.
Hence, India-Australia relations have a long way ahead and the recent improvement in the ties should act as solid bedrock over which the relations should develop.