Sunday 10 Oct 2021 | 03:50 | SYDNEY
Sunday 10 Oct 2021 | 03:50 | SYDNEY

India: Another pillar for Rudd foreign policy


Rory Medcalf


23 May 2008 14:07

Australia’s Asia diplomacy is incomplete unless we treat the relationship with India as a first-order priority. Criticisms of the unwieldy nature of Indian democracy, the pride and prickliness of some of its diplomacy, its undoubted problems with massive infrastructure deficiencies, or indeed its reputation for gross inequality all miss the point: despite its problems, India’s economy is growing at somewhere in the vicinity of 9 percent a year. On current projections, it will be on a par with the US as the world’s second biggest economy after China – even by exchange rate measures – by 2050 (see page 154 of this report), and will be a strategic player to match. And this is assuming that it cannot leapfrog its constraints of infrastructure, bureaucracy, democratic inertia and caste.  Just imagine if it could…

Thankfully, I think there remain reasonable prospects of the Rudd Government’s getting its act together on its India diplomacy.  I have depicted the relationship as hesitating on the brink of partnership despite our common interests, and I believe that is still the case. Direct discussions between leaders will go a long way towards moving beyond (and perhaps eventually even resolving) differences over uranium sales, and finding ways to build a deeper, more enduring and ultimately strategic relationship. And India’s recent return to its nuclear disarmament rhetoric offers intriguing opportunities for Australia and others to maximise areas of common ground in the gathering global nuclear arms control and nuclear energy debates.

Anyway, the good news – as Greg Sheridan’s recent column seems to have overlooked – is that the Rudd Government appears to have plans for a Prime Ministerial visit to India later this year.  It looks like the Australia-India relationship is in for some close attention after all.

Photo, by the author, shows a monument Australia gave to India in 1930, located outside New Delhi's North Block, administrative headquarters of the Indian Home Ministry.