June 2, 2023

Lukmaan IAS

A Blog for IAS Examination



THE CONTEXT: The first official visit of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese began in India on 8 March 2023. Albanese is in India for India-Australia Summit which has been concluded on 11 March 2023. India-Australia has gained new momentum with the changing geostrategic scenario. In this article, we will look into a different aspects of this relationship with reference to the Indo-Pacific region.


  • The end of the Cold War and simultaneously India’s decision to launch major economic reforms in 1991 provided the first step towards closer economic cooperation.
  • The ties were upgraded to comprehensive Strategic partnership in June 2020.
  • India and Australia signed an Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) with an eye on doubling bilateral trade to $50 billion in the next five years and easing the movement of people, goods and services across borders. The negotiations for India-Australia ECTA were formally re-launched on 30 September 2021 (which were stalled since 2015) and concluded on a fast-track basis by the end of March 2022.



  • India is Australia’s 5th largest trading partner.
  • $26 B bilateral trade as of 2020


  • Both countries jointly decided to work together in the areas of digital economy, cyber security and critical and emerging technologies as identified by the Framework Arrangement on Cyber and Cyber-Enabled Critical Technology Cooperation.
  • The MOU on Cooperation in the field of Mining and Processing of Critical and Strategic Minerals identifies specific areas where both sides will work together to meet the technological demands of the future economy.


  • India and Australia agreed to boost cooperation in the maritime domain as encapsulated in Joint Declaration on a Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Both India and Australia are committed to working together with partners and relevant regional organisations across the Indo-Pacific, including ASEAN, to enhance capacity for sustainable management of marine resources.
  • Australia expressed support for India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) which will promote better coordination and cooperation among the countries in the region.
  • India France Australia trilateral naval exercises and ministerial dialogue affirm commitment for free open and inclusive Indo-pacific and a rules-based order in the region with ASEAN centrality.


  • Military Exercise: Deepen and broaden defence cooperation by enhancing the scope and complexity of their military exercises and engagement activities to develop new ways to address shared security challenges.
  • Both sides agreed to increase military inter-operability through defence exercises through their Arrangement concerning Mutual Logistics Support
  • Australia’s white paper on foreign policy released in 2017 sees India in the front rank of Australia’s international partnerships. It says both countries have congruent interests in the openness and stability of Indian Ocean and both must ensure freedom of navigation and maritime security in the region.


  • Both of countries has established Energy security dialogue. Australia has huge reserves of uranium and thus can help in nuclear power cooperation.
  • Civil nuclear cooperation agreement was signed in 2014, enabling India to secure uranium from Australia.
  • Also India’s dependence on China for rare earth metals can be reduced through increasing imports from Australia.


  • Australia’s Pacific set up and India’s forum for India – Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) reaffirmed their cooperation in the South Pacific region


  • Both countries have established Joint working groups in energy, minerals and education.
  • cooperation in the Clean Ganga river project
  • Both are members of IORA, commonwealth, and ASEAN regional forum


  • Indian diaspora estimated to be nearly 7 lakh in Australia.
  • India is third largest source of immigrants for Australia.


  • Australia supports India’s candidature for an expanded security council and in APEC.
  • Cooperating as members of Five Interested Parties (FIP) in case of WTO.
  • Along with Japan India and Australia have proposed supply chain resilience initiative
  • Australia is also a member of ISA.
  • Beyond bilateralism, both countries are also entering into partnerships with like­minded countries, including Indonesia, Japan and France, in a trilateral framework.


  • Economic cooperation: Both countries agreed on the early conclusion of India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.
  • Defence Partnership: Australia has agreed to strengthen its defence partnerships with India
  • MoUs were signed in sports and audio-visual co-production agreements and terms of reference for Solar Taskforce exchanged between India and Australia.
  • Indo-pacific region: PM of India discussed maritime security in the Indo-Pacific and ways to enhance mutual security with his Australian counterpart. “In the field of defence, we have made remarkable agreements in the last few years, including logistics support for each other’s militaries,”
  • India has condemned attacks on the temples in Australia. Australia assured India of the safety of the Indian community.


  • Indo pacific region is emerging as the important geostrategic region. The Indo pacific for India is a dynamic coupling of two sea- Indian and Pacific Ocean. Indo pacific name itself denotes the centrality of India in the region.
  • Indo-Pacific is home to 65 percent of the world’s population, accounts for 63 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), and more than 60 percent of the world’s maritime trade flows through the region.


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe referred to the “confluence” of the Indian and Pacific Oceans in his speech to the Indian Parliament in August 2007 as “the dynamic coupling as seas of freedom and of prosperity” in the “broader Asia”.The emergence of the Indo-Pacific as a new geographic space—bringing together the Indian and the Pacific Oceans—represents the new strategic reality of the twenty-first century.

Formally documentation of Indo-Pacific: It was first officially documented in Australia’s Defence White Paper, 2013.

QUAD (Quadrilateral security dialogue) has been in the focus in the context of freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific countries.

Evolution of Quad: Genesis –

  • In 2004, India, Japan, Australia and the US formed the Tsunami Core Group for disaster relief.
  • April, 2007 – Joint naval exercises near Tokyo by India, Japan and the United States.
  • May 2007 – In Manila, on the sidelines of Asian Regional Forum members met in the inaugural meeting of the Quadrilateral
  • August 2007 – Shinzo Abe delivers “Confluence of Two Seas” speech in Indian Parliament.
  • September 2007 – Further naval exercises were held in the Bay of Bengal, including Australia.
  • October2007 – Security agreement between Japan and India, ratified during a visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Tokyo, to promote sea lane safety and defense collaboration; Japan had previously established such an agreement only with Australia.
  • January 2008 – Before visiting China, the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, declared that “India is not part of any so-called contain China effort,” when asked about the Quadrilateral.
  • February 2008 – Kevin Rudd, unilaterally announced Australia’s departure from the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue without consulting members of the Quad.


  • The economic interests and future growth of many nations, in the region and beyond, are intricately linked to the freedom of navigation and free flow of trade through the Indo-Pacific.
  • Eastward shift of the world’s economic “centre of gravity” toward the Asian continent from trans Atlantic region. Thus Indo Pacific region has emerged as an integrated geopolitical construct, wherein lie tremendous geoeconomic opportunities as well as daunting security challenges, not only for Asia but also for the rest of the wider world.
  • India has emerged as an important and major player in the global sphere thus global community expects India to play a major role, including in terms of ensuring a maritime environment that is conducive for economic growth and development.
  • The trigger for the “Indo-Pacific” coinage was China’s increasing politico-military assertiveness and increasing its unilateral actions like String of pearls, Increasing its actions in South China sea (nine-dash line ) etc
  • The “Indo-Pacific” idea is an opportunity to showcase the Indian Navy’s capability to moderate China’s behavior, thereby dissuading its future aggressiveness.
  • A more aggressive China has resulted in the revival of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and the announcement of a trilateral security pact (AUKUS). India, Japan, and Australia are emerging power centres and are being viewed as balancing powers in the region.



America’s vision for a free, open, connected, prosperous, resilient, and secure Indo-Pacific region in which all countries are empowered to adapt to the 21st century’s challenges and seize its many opportunities. The United States will pursue an Indo-Pacific region that is:

●  Free & Open: A free Indo-Pacific means problems are dealt with openly, rules are reached transparently and applied fairly, goods and ideas and people flow freely

●  Connected: A connected Indo-Pacific means stronger connections within and beyond the region that allow us to work together as a regional community to tackle our shared problems.

●  Prosperous: A prosperous Indo-Pacific means broad-based prosperity and free, fair, open, and reciprocal trade that leaves no communities or countries behind in the 21st century.

●  Resilient: A resilient Indo-Pacific means improved global health security and strengthening people’s, countries’ and economies’ ability

●  Secure: A secure Indo-Pacific means that movements of people, ideas, and goods across international sea, land, and air borders and across cyberspace are made legally.


India remained more focused on the continental borders till the end of 20th century . Nonetheless, situation changed in 21st century and India started focusing more on maritime domain.

India views indo pacific from the shores of Africa to the Americas

India rebooted its maritime outreach in the Indian Ocean with the launch of :

●  Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) for regional cooperation in 199.

●  Launch of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) initiative in 2015.

Recognising the fact that non-conventional security threats cannot be effectively addressed without securing the East Indian Ocean and Western Pacific, India officially joined the Indo-Pacific construct in 2018.

Addressing the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore, Prime Minister outlined India’s vision and policy elements for Indo-Pacific.

In his address Prime Minister called for “an open and inclusive order in Indo-Pacific based on respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations” .

Prime Minister’s address was followed by the launch Indo-Pacific Ocean Initiative (IPOI) in November 2019 which added more clarity to India’s vision.

IPOI listed

(1) Maritime Security;

(2) Maritime Ecology;

(3) Maritime Resources;

(4) Capacity Building and Resource Sharing;

(5) Disaster Risk Reduction and Management;

(6) Science, Technology and Academic Cooperation; and

(7) Trade, Connectivity and Maritime Transport as seven pillars for the cooperation with Indo-Pacific countries.

It envisages drawing on existing regional cooperation architecture and mechanisms to achieve the objective of open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

India has opened indo pacific division and an oceania division under the same Additional secretary to ensure integration in approach.

India has been categorical that it is ‘for something’ in the Indo-Pacific and ‘not against somebody’, seeking to carefully calibrate its relations with the US and China in this geopolitically critical region.


ASEAN lies at the centre of the Indo-Pacific. ASEAN deliberated for more than a year to publish a short five-page long ASEAN outlook on Indo-Pacific in mid-2019.

●  ASEAN identifies maritime cooperation as the highest priority. Unlike the Indo-Pacific visions of the USA, Japan and Australia, ASEAN’s economic outlook did not envisage any military cooperation to ensure maritime security. It encompasses preserving and protecting the marine environment and biodiversity, promoting green shipping, developing blue economy, sustainable management of marine resources and technical cooperation in marine science.

●  Connectivity is the second important theme of ASEAN Indo- Pacific outlook. It emphasises on improved physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity among Indo-Pacific countries.

●  Economic cooperation: ASEAN outlook on Indo-Pacific also lists several economic and other areas for cooperation. It vouches ASEAN’s support for free trade agreement and comprehensive economic partnerships to enhance global integration.

●  Economic areas of cooperation under ASEAN outlook for Indo–Pacific go beyond trade and cover all aspects of economy that include the following, among others:

○  Digital Economy and the facilitation of cross-border data flow

○  Promotion of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises

○  Active ageing and innovation

○ Cooperation on preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with emphasis on sharing expertise and experience to realise the benefits and mitigate the challenges of digital resolution.

○  Development of private sector

●  Science, Technology, Research and Development, Smart Infrastructure, Climate Change, Disaster Risk Reduction/ Management and South-South Cooperation are also listed as areas for cooperation in ASEAN outlook for Indo-pacific


●  Australia has not published any special document to outline its Indo- Pacific vision or strategy, rather its Indo-Pacific vision has evolved through several key policy documents such as 2016 defence white paper, 2017 foreign policy white paper 2017, etc. These documents call for a secure, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. Maritime security features prominently in the Australian vision of Indo-Pacific.

●  Connectivity/infrastructure finance also features prominently in Australian vision of Indo-Pacific. It should not be used to gain strategic influence and commercial advantage and pledges Australian support for transparency, sustainability and private sector participation in connectivity /infrastructure projects.

●  Australian Indo-Pacific strategy vouches for a free and fair trade under multilateral framework and having an open economy with high dependence on international trade.Recently launched supply chain resilience initiative which India, Japan and Australia have jointly launched, corroborates this.

The contour of Indo-Pacific strategies of different countries/regional groups varies substantially. On the one extreme, the USA has taken a confrontationist approach and its vision of the Indo-Pacific revolves around containing China. On the other extreme, ASEAN and European strategies, despite airing their concerns for freedom of navigation have adopted an inclusive approach which co-opts China. However, despite several differences, these strategies converge at many points. Moreover, India’s Indo-Pacific Ocean Initiative and Indo-Pacific strategies of other countries/regions share synergy at several actionable points which opens several opportunities for India.

Various initiatives for facilitating the free flow of trade as well as respect for international law and national sovereignty.

  • Blue Dot Network and Built Back Better World (B3W) by USA
  • Quality Infrastructure initiative by Japan
  • China Plus One” strategy: Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) with India, Japan and Australia broadly underline the “China Plus One” strategy to achieve economic rebalancing in Indo-Pacific.
  • Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF): With this US has been trying to reengage economically with Indo-Pacific countries to counter China’s regional economic influence.
    • The four policy pillars of the IPEF include:
      • digital trade and standards,
      • building of resilient supply chains,
      • implementation of clean energy commitments and
      • promoting fair economy by enforcing effective tax and removal of corruption.

These initiatives have been launched to promote value and norm based cooperation to provide an alternative of Belt and Road initiative.


  • China claims that there is no such concept as Indo-Pacific” which was “created by the United States” to bring in partners such as India to “contain” it. China held that the Indian Ocean is included in the Asia Pacific region as their Asia-Pacific allies alone are no longer enough to contain China, they want to bring in India and other U. S. allies, such as France, which considers itself an Indo-Pacific country.
  • China and Russia view QUAD as the Asian-NATO and it as a strategy of the west against its rise.Russian foreign minister Sergei lavrov – called Quad a “devious policy” by western powers to engage India in “anti china games.” Refer quad as “divisive” and “exclusivist.” He has said “alliances such as Asian NATO can be counterproductive” and further stressed that Sino Russia ties are “the highest in history.”
  • China has been vocal in criticising Australia it said AUKUS and QUAD as “obsolete cold war zero sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical concepts” and should “respect regional people’s aspiration otherwise they will only end up hurting their own interests”. China also questioned Australia’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, while the state-run Global Times, which often takes a harder line than Chinese officials, said: “Australian troops are also most likely to be the first batch of western soldiers to waste their lives in the South China Sea.”

Without any pan-Indo-Pacific institution, a network of bilateral, trilateral and quadrilateral cooperation has been shaping the Indo-Pacific’s emerging economic and security architecture.


  • Increase relations with pacific islands: Small Island countries need security assurances against China’s aggression. India-Australia cooperation can provide them security assurances. This will also increase the diplomatic capital of India and help increase its stature as a net security provider in the region.
  • Strategy autonomy- India’s foreign policy must be based on the core principle of stray autonomy. In Spite of increasing dependence on other countries like US, India needs to build its own capacity to tackle the security challenges. In a new geopolitical environment, India must tread cautiously and carefully navigate the choppy waters.
  • Racism attacked: Racial attacks should be dealt strictly as it fuels the mistrust and
  • Agreement to be fulfilled: All the agreements should be adhered timely. Also, there is need for early conclusion of a comprehensive economic agreement to deepen the relationship.
  • Maintaining strategic relationship with the likeminded countries like EU, USA, Japan for freedom of navigation in Indo Pacific.
  • Strengthen own capacity to increase deterrence to deal with the any aggression.
  • Raising voice in the multilateral organization like UN for the peace and security in the region.
  • Collaboration with others to deal with security challenges like illegal fishing, piracy etc.

THE CONCLUSION: In the globalised world, freedom of navigation is necessary for economic development. Thus Indo-pacific has emerged as a key geopolitical theatre of competition wraith major power involvement. In this context, India and Australia relations play an important role in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific Ocean.

Mains Questions

  1. Indo -pacific region has emerged as the key theatre of competition between various major powers. In this context discuss the steps taken by India in securing its interest.
  2. Strong India-Australia relationship can play an important role in maintaining the rule of order opinion in the Indo-Pacific region. Critically examine.
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April 2023