Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 11:05 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 11:05 | SYDNEY

Australia and India: Time to declare


Rory Medcalf


11 November 2009 14:42

This is a big week for Australia in its relations with India. Cricket aside, the big news is Kevin Rudd's first visit to India as Prime Minister. As I argue in a new Lowy Institute policy brief, the bad headlines in Australia-India relations in the past year — especially over student welfare — have a silver lining: the two governments are now paying close attention to the challenges and the opportunities in the bilateral relationship.

Speculation is growing that this might translate into a security declaration, along the lines of those agreed between Australia and Japan (2007), Japan and India (2008) and, earlier this year, Australia and South Korea. My policy brief, and an associated opinion piece in today's Indian Express, suggests some of the practical elements such a document might contain, to ensure that it is more than rhetoric. It is good to see some influential Indian commentators taking note.

Dialogue won't only be at the government level this week. The Lowy Institute has its own presence in New Delhi at the moment, as joint convener of the Australia-India Roundtable, an informal dialogue among experts, opinion-makers and former officials. Tomorrow we join our Indian hosts, the Indian Council of World Affairs, for two days of talks about how to maximise partnerships and manage differences between the two countries, on such issues as energy, education, defence and the reshaping of the Asian and global strategic order. Kevin Rudd will address the gathering as part of his visit.

The Roundtable is meant to be a candid and closed-door discussion, so I won't be blogging on who said what. But it will be fascinating to hold these talks against the backdrop of leaders'-level discussions. I will report later on the tenor of our dialogue, and especially any new ideas and insights it generates on how to turn a promising but troubled relationship into a strategic partnership in which each power might genuinely assist the other's resilience and influence.

Photo by Flickr user R@VITH, used under a Creative Commons license.