Sunday, July 23, 2017

Australia and India: partners in regional security and prosperity

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/partners-in-regional-security-and-prosperity/article19303212.ece


Julie Bishop

JULY 19, 2017 00:02 IST

UPDATED: JULY 19, 2017 00:02 IST

Australia and India can ensure that the Indo-Pacific region remains anchored to a resilient rules-based order

Australia and India share converging interests and similar outlooks on the strategic changes taking place in the Indo-Pacific region and globally. Building on our historic ties, cultural links and extensive people-to-people connections, our bilateral relationship is strengthening. India is Australia’s ninth largest trading partner, with boundless potential for growth.

Our Indian-origin residents are the fourth largest group of overseas-born Australians, representing close to 2% of our total population. They make a strong contribution to our country across all fields — business, science and medicine, education, arts and culture and sports.

In June, we demonstrated our strong naval ties when the Australia-India Exercise (AUSINDEX) was conducted for the second time, this time off Australia’s west coast.

During my visit to India this week, I will reiterate our shared commitment to ensuring the Indo-Pacific region — the most dynamic in the world — remains peaceful and increasingly prosperous.

Keeping the peace

Australia is committed to working with India and other nations to ensure our region continues to be underpinned by a predictable and resilient rules-based order. The existing post-World War II order has underpinned the extraordinary economic growth we have seen in many parts of the world, and more recently in our region. It has allowed Indo-Pacific states — large and small — to pursue their national and collective interests, while also providing the mechanisms to resolve any disputes peacefully.

Increasingly, however, this rules-based order is under pressure. Strategic competition is leading to unilateral action. Rising nationalism is leading to a narrower conception of national interests, and a more transactional approach to negotiations.

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As democracies, Australia and India have systems of government where leaders are accountable and the rights of citizens are respected. These democratic principles and practices, when translated into foreign affairs and the engagement between nations, are the essence of an international rules-based system. We need to build and strengthen international institutions that promote cooperation and manage competing interests in fair and transparent ways, in order to maintain regional and global stability. Peace and security in the region will also be consolidated if countries have an economic stake in maintaining good relations.

Australia is determined to strengthen regional prosperity by maintaining our open, integrated regional economy, underpinned by liberalised trade and investment. Australia and other countries in the region have opened our economies to one another, and have integrated trade, production and investment in a dynamic regional economy, to the benefit of all. India’s growing economic weight has the potential to help lift standards of living in India as well as contribute to prosperity in the wider Indo-Pacific.

A new phase of investment

Australia welcomes India’s ambitious reform agenda, including the recent introduction of a Goods and Services Tax, and stands ready to lend support, drawing on our own experience. Economic growth and prosperity in the region will also require continued investment in infrastructure.

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Increasingly, China is lending its enormous economic weight to a new phase of investment in the region and beyond. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank — which Australia and India joined as founding members — has a role to play in funding infrastructure. Likewise, Japan makes a significant contribution to investment, both commercially and through development banks. We endorse the concept behind these investments — of enhancing connectivity, in land, air, sea and cyber. The more connected our region, the more business opportunities there will be for the private sector, including Australian firms. To ensure these infrastructure investments are cost-effective and economically viable, competition, transparency and accountability in decision-making are of critical importance. We look forward to India liberalising its trade and investment regime further to realise its economic growth prospects and increase its influence in the region. India’s economic and strategic rise is widely welcomed by the region, and globally.

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India is also fully committed to supporting the role of key regional institutions and to strengthening collective leadership. While less developed than the extensive regional architecture in Southeast and East Asia, the regional architecture of the Indian Ocean is increasingly promoting coordinated approaches with South Asia, in response to shared interests and emerging challenges. India and Australia need to increase our bilateral cooperation and our collective efforts with other like-minded countries. Together we can shape a future region in which strong and effective rules and open markets deliver lasting peace and prosperity — free markets and free people.

Julie Bishop is Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs

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