Recent engagements being Foreign Minister S Jaishankar’s visit to Australia on 18 February, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s visit to India from 28 February to 03 March, visit of Australian Education Minister Jason Clare to India on 28 Feb – 3 March.
During the visit, first in-person India-Australia Annual Summit will be held. The last visit by an Australian PM (Malcolm Turnbull) was in 2017. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had paid his first official visit to Australia for G20 Leaders’ Summit in 2014 followed by a bilateral visit during which he addressed a joint sitting of the Parliament of Australia (first Indian PM).
The Prime Ministers have met thrice on the sidelines of multilateral meetings last year: Quad Leaders’ Summit in Tokyo (May 2022); G-20 Summit in Bali (November 2022); Short interaction at State Funeral of former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in Tokyo (September 2022)
The first Virtual Summit was held in June 2020 when the bilateral relationship was upgraded to “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”. During second Virtual Summit, some key announcements included Letter of Intent on Migration and Mobility Partnership Arrangement to foster exchange of skills and Letter of Arrangement for Educational Qualifications Recognition to facilitate mobility of students and professionals, General Rawat India-Australia Young Defence Officers’ Exchange Programme, MoU for Co-Investment in Critical Minerals Projects in Australia etc.
India-Australia bilateral economic relations are growing. The Economic Cooperation Trade Agreement (ECTA) has entered into force from December 2022. It is the 1st FTA signed by India with any developed country in a decade. ECTA has resulted in immediate reduction of duty to zero on 96% of Indian exports to Australia in value (that is 98% of the tariff lines) and zero duty on 85% of Australia’s exports (in value) to India. The bilateral trade was USD 27.5 billion in 2021. Australia is the 17th largest trading partner of India and India is Australia’s 9th largest trading partner. With ECTA, there is potential for bilateral trade to reach around US$ 50 billion in five years. Indian Yoga teachers and Chefs will gain with an annual quota. There has been a resolution of Double Taxation of Indian IT companies which will save them over US$ 200 mn per year.
India is one of the top sources of skilled immigrants to Australia. The Indian community in Australia continues to grow in size and importance. As per 2021 Census, around 9,76,000 people in Australia trace their ancestry as Indian origin, making them second largest group of overseas born residents in Australia. To celebrate India@75, Australian Government illuminated more than 40 monuments/buildings across Australia, including iconic Sydney Opera House. PM Albanese issued a personal video message on the 75th Anniversary of IndependenceMechanism for Mutual Recognition of Educational Qualifications (MREQ) was signed on 2 March 2023. This will facilitate mobility of students between India and Australia. Deakin University and University of Wollongong are planning to open campuses in India. There are more than 1 lakh Indian students pursuing various higher education courses in universities across Australia, making Indian students the second largest cohort of foreign students in Australia.
The bilateral defence cooperation is expanding. The 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue was held in September 2021. Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Australia visited India in June 2022. There is active engagement between tri-services. Arrangement concerning Mutual Logistics Support (MLSA) was concluded during the Virtual Summit (June 2020). AUSTRAHIND, Army exercise, was held in November 2022. Indian Air Force participated in Exercise PITCH BLACK in September 2022. INS Satpura participated at the multinational Exercise KAKADU in September 2022.
India and Australia are keen to cooperate in the field of clean energy and have taken several initiatives on the matter. India and Australia have signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) on New and Renewable Energy in February 2022 which provides for cooperation towards bringing down the cost of renewable energy (RE) technologies, especially ultralow-cost solar and clean hydrogen. During Virtual Summit in March 2022, India announced matching funds of the amount of AUD 10 million for Pacific Island Countries under Infrastructure for Resilient Island States (IRIS) and of AUD 10 million for Pacific Island Countries under International Solar Alliance (ISA)
India and Australia co-operate in various multilateral fora. Australia supports India’s candidature in an expanded UN Security Council. Both India and Australia are members of the Commonwealth, IORA, ASEAN Regional Forum, International Solar Alliance, Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and have participated in the East Asia Summits. Australia and India are working together on various forums, including QUAD, Supply Chain Resilience Initiative. Australia has expressed strong support for India’s G20 Presidency.