• In recent years, The India-Australia bilateral relationship has undergone evolution, developing along a positive track, into a friendly partnership.
      • The two nations have much in common, underpinned by shared values of a pluralistic, Westminster-style democracies, Commonwealth traditions, expanding economic engagement and increasing high level interaction
      • Several other commonalities, including strong, vibrant, secular and multicultural democracies, free press, independent judicial system and English language, serve as a foundation for a closer co-operation and multifaceted interaction
    • The longstanding people-to-people ties, ever increasing Indian students coming to Australia for higher education, growing tourism and sporting links, especially Cricket and Hockey, have played a significant role in further strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries


Areas of Cooperation

1.Political Cooperation

    • Strategic Partnership
      • In 2009, India and Australia established a ‘Strategic Partnership’, including a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation which has been further elevated to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2020
    • High Level Exchanges
      • Leaders’ Virtual Summit
        • The Prime Ministers from both nations, participated in the India-Australia Leaders’ Virtual Summit in 2020 where the bilateral Strategic Partnership concluded in 2009 was elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP)
        • MoUs were signed relating to Maritime Cooperation in Indo-Pacific, Defence, Cyber Security, Education, Mining, Water Resource Management etc.
      • Quad Leaders Virtual Summit
        • Prime Ministers of India, Australia, Japan and President of USA participate here, for mutual cooperation
      • Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue (FMFD)
        • FMFD is the central mechanism for advancing the bilateral agenda and is held annually
    • Dialogue Mechanisms
      • Various institutional dialogue mechanisms include
      • Annual Meetings of Prime Ministers
      • Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue
      • Joint Trade & Commerce Ministerial Commission
      • India-Australia ‘2+2’ Foreign Secretaries and Defence Secretaries Dialogue
      • Defence Policy Talks
      • Australia-India Education Council
      • Defence Services Staff Talks
      • Energy Dialogue
      • India-Australia-Japan Trilateral Dialogue
      • India-Australia-Indonesia Trilateral Dialogue
      • India-France-Australia Trilateral Dialogue
      • India-Australia Bilateral Dialogue on Global Cyber Issues
      • India-Australia Maritime Dialogue
      • India-Australia Economic Policy Dialogue
      • India-Australia Dialogue on Disarmament
      • Non-proliferation and Export Control as well as Joint Working Groups on Tourism, Counter-Terrorism, Water Resources, Agriculture, Skill Development, etc.
      • India and Australia also 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, Asia Pacific Partnership on Climate and Clean Development, and have participated in the East Asia Summits
      • Both countries have also been cooperating as members of the Five Interested Parties (FIP) in the WTO context
      • Australia supports India’s membership in the APEC
      • The Prime Ministers of Australia and India interact regularly at G20 as well

2.Bilateral Economic and Trade Relationship

    • As part of its efforts to develop strong economic relationship with India, the Australian Government commissioned the India Economic Strategy to 2035 to define a pathway for Australia to unlock opportunities offered by Indian Economic growth (This paper was released in 2018)
    • India-Australia Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) was established in 1989 to enable interaction at a government and business level on a range of trade and investment related issues
    • Bilateral Trade
      • India is the 8th largest trade partner of Australia with trade in goods and services at A$ 26.24 billion representing 3% share of the total Australian trade in FY 2019-20, with exports at A$ 7.59 billion and imports at A$ 18.65 billion
      • India’s main exports to Australia are Refined petroleum, Medicaments (incl. veterinary), Pearls & gems, Jewellery, Made-up textile articles, Women’s clothing , Other textile clothing, Manufactures of base metal
        • While India’s major imports are Coal, Confidential items of trade, Copper ores & concentrates, Natural gas, Non-ferrous waste & scrap, ferrous waste & scrap and education related services
      • Education is Australia’s largest service export to India, valued at $6 billion and accounting for around 88 per cent of the total in 2020
    • India-Australia CEO Forum is a mechanism for business from both nations to engage directly on ways to build the bilateral trade and investment relationship (It was established in 2011 and revitalised in November 2014).
      • The Forum includes heads of Indian and Australian business from a broad range of sectors
    • Treasury-NITI Ayog Economic Policy Dialogue
      • A two–member delegation led by CEO of NITI Aayog, visited Australia in 2019, for first of its kind dialogue
      • Further, To support more Australian and Indian business partnerships, the Australian Government has launched the Australia India Business Exchange (AIBX) program.
      • AIBX provides a range of services to support Australian businesses to enter and establish in India, from industry specific insights to guidance on doing business with India and entering India’s online retail market.

3.Civil Nuclear Cooperation

    • A Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement between the two countries was signed in 2014
      • The agreement came into force in 2015 and provides the framework for substantial new trade in energy between Australia and India.
    • In this pursuance, The Australian Parliament passed the “Civil Nuclear Transfer to India Bill 2016” in 2016 which ensures that Uranium mining companies in Australia may fulfil contracts to supply Australian uranium to India for civil use with confidence that exports would not be hindered by domestic legal action, challenging the consistency of the safeguards applied by the IAEA in India and Australia’s international non-proliferation obligations

4.Defence Cooperation

    • During India’s PM visit to Australia in 2014, both sides decided to extend defence cooperation to cover research, development and industry engagement and agreed to hold regular meetings at the level of the Defence Minister, conduct regular maritime exercises and convene regular service-to-service talks
    • Other Bilateral Exercises
      • Australia and India are committed to working together for enhanced maritime cooperation and have had AUSINDEX since 2015
      • Exercise Pitch Black is a biennial warfare exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)
        • Recently, Australia informed India that the exercise Pitch Black 2020, scheduled in the year stands cancelled due to the Covid-19.
        • The next edition will be held in 2022.
      • Both nations also cooperate alongside AUSTRAHIND (Special Forces of Army Exercise)

5.Science & Technology

    • An Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF), which was established in 2006, supports collaboration between scientists in India and Australia on cutting-edge research
    • A Joint Working Group (JWG) for cooperation in Agriculture has been set up

6.Resources & Energy Security

    • In 2017, Australia signed a framework agreement for to join the International Solar Alliance, led by the Governments of India and France
    • The Australia-India Energy Dialogue is the primary forum to discuss bilateral engagement on energy and resources.
      • There are 4 working groups established to support the Energy Dialogue:
        • Renewable Energy and Smart Grids
        • Power and Energy Efficiency
        • Coal and Mines
        • Oil and Gas
    • At the recent QUAD summit, both sides agreed to go forward with a low emissions technology partnership, a partnership that will focus on hydrogen development, ultra-low cost solar programs, to support India’s energy transition

7.Education, Sports, Art & Culture

    • Pursuant to the signing of the new Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training, the Joint Working Group Meeting between India (Ministry for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship) and Australia (Dept. of Education, Skills and Employment) was held virtually in 2020
    • Repatriation of Indian Cultural Artefacts
      • A number of artefacts have been successfully repatriated to India in recent years.
      • They include Bronze Idol of Nataraja from Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) (2019), Nagaraja stone sculpture (2020), two Dwarpala stone sculptures (2020)
    • The Indian community in Australia continues to grow in size and importance, with the population of about seven hundred thousand.
      • India is one of the top sources of skilled immigrants to Australia
      • The number of Indian students continue to grow with approximately 105,000 students presently studying in Australian universities.
      • After England, India is the second largest migrant group in Australia in 2020


    • Different concerns : China
      • Australian concerns have to do with China’s increased activities in the Pacific; while India is concerned about China’s greater presence and influence in the Indian Ocean
      • It is likely that Australia has a certain lack of confidence given that New Delhi seems ambiguous about whether to balance or hedge. These differences might partly have to do with strategic histories.
      • In this perspective, Australia has long been an American ally, while India remains uncomfortable about alliances
    • Joint Exercises: India’s Military deficit
      • The second issue with the relationship is the deficit of military capabilities, especially on the Indian side
      • While the two militaries have been able to showcase their prowess during exercises, their ability to come to each other’s aid during conflict remains in question.
      • The joint logistics services agreement would go a long way in addressing this issue as it would provide joint access to each other’s military facilities
    • Malabar Trilateral related
      • From an Australian perspective, an irritant in the relationship is India’s reluctance to involve Australia in the Malabar trilateral naval exercise alongside the other three Quad nations — India, Japan and the United States.
      • Indian media reports indicate that India might be open to involving Australia at the next Malabar naval exercises
    • Nuclear Deal at Pivot Point
      • Although Australia has developed its uranium export industry in recent years, there are still considerable reservations among many in Australia about its sale
      • The key condition for allowing uranium mining was that uranium would only be exported for civilian use to countries that had signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – which India has not signed yet
      • In pursuance of this aspect, Despite an agreement, Australia continued its policy of not supplying uranium to India

Way Forward

  • Thus, as the threat from China grows, India and Australia should find more innovative ways to work together to shape a stable Asian strategic order
  • Augmented Australia-India ties within bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral, and other minilaterals and multilateral institutions are a reality that is unlikely to slow down for the foreseeable future.
    • The convergence of strategic interests in ensuring an Indo-Pacific order that is free of hegemonic and muscular policies is a glue that will bind India and Australia further in the coming years.
    • The two will likely also expand their partnership both in pursuing strategic partnerships and thematic ones like supply chain resilience initiative
  • On the whole, The India–Australia strategic partnership has seen impressive advancements in the last few years, but its potential and promise are yet to be fully realised.
    • Hence, the need of dedicated attention and political leadership from both capitals to become more than a work in progress going forward