The Australian High Commissioner HE Mr. Peter N Varghese visited Vivekananda International Foundation on 27 June 2012 for an interaction on “Australia-India Strategic Partnership in an Asian Century”. The VIF faculty was represented by Mr. Ajit Doval, Amb. PP Shukla, Lt. Gen. Ravi Sawhney and specially invited select strategic analysts and experts. Highlighting the history of Australia India relationship the High Commissioner said that the interests of Australia and India are now converging, providing an opportunity to build a strategic partnership. He stated that over this century India would become an important player in the security of Asia.
Further he mentioned it makes sense to think of Indo Pacific rather than the Asia Pacific, as the crucible of Australian Security. This broader definition returns India to Asia’s strategic matrix. It connects the Indian and Pacific Oceans, thereby underlining the crucial role that the maritime environment is likely to play in the future strategic and defence planning of both the countries.
He opined that although the primary burden of managing strategic stability in Asia will fall on bilateral relationship, yet regional institutions can also play an important complementary role. The new construct of the Indo Pacific neatly matches the recently expanded East Asian Summit (EAS). And it sets the scene to make the EAS the premier regional institution potentially capable of addressing both the strategic and economic challenges facing the Indo Pacific region.
The future of Asia he commented would be shaped by two key issues. First, will the strong economic growth of the last several decades continue? And, second, will the strategic stability of the last six decades hold?
He further spoke about the inevitability of large Asian economies to face serious challenges. However he opined that economic reforms would decide the pace of their economic growth as well as the re-examination of the role of the state would be needed.
In terms of strategic power he added that it was shifting from the west to the east where Asia will see for the first time in centuries a clutch of powers which are simultaneously strong. He noted that new patterns of economic cooperation and even interdependence are being built atop long-standing strategic fault lines.
China’s importance vis-à-vis Australia was highlighted whereby he mentioned that Australia sought a stronger and closer relationship with it. He stressed that it is in no one’s interest for China to fail and it is in every one’s interest for China to continue to be engaged in the global economy and in the multilateral institutions which underpin and reinforce international norms.
The views of Australia and India according to him are remarkably close in building a strategic partnership that want an Asian region which is outward looking and inclusive, regional institutions that will manage major power tensions as well as both see the US as stabilizing force albeit from different perspectives.
He stressed on building the strategic partnership and outlined a four pillar strategy first to have an economic relationship built around energy security. Second, a political/strategic relationship based on closer defence cooperation, a closer working relationship on institution-building in Asia and the Indian Ocean through the East Asia Summit and the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation. Third, a multilateral strategy focussed on the G20 with closer collaboration on trade liberalisation and climate change and fourth building people-to-people relationship in a way which reinforces our shared hard interests.
He mentioned that there is nothing in India’s current strategic trajectory, or in its strategic doctrine, which runs against core Australian strategic interests. Hence the idea of a strategic partnership between Australia and India is well anchored.
Report Prepared By Neha Mehta