The Australia-India bilateral relationship in 2017: stable, static and newly significant

International trade Diplomacy Australia India

Following a brief summary of some successes and some landmark pitfalls in the Australia-India bilateral relationship that line its journey to the election of Prime Ministers Tony Abbott in September 2013 and Narendra Modi in May 2014, this paper draws on the relationship’s state of play from their election to the present. Following the election of two leaders whose parties, the Liberal Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had been out of power for some years, commitments to strengthen the defence and security partnership, enabled by the Framework for Security Co-operation that was agreed upon in 2014 and ongoing trade negotiations, followed. Malcolm Turnbull’s election as leader of the Liberal Party in September 2015 saw programmes enhanced and new initiatives that extend both the bilateral relationship and create opportunities for new interactions in multilateral forums. The increasing recognition by Australia and India of the benefits that each has to offer has the potential to invigorate the relationship, a hope that was carried forward this year by the visits to India of the Australian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

Key points

  • The Australia-India bilateral relationship has not developed consistently across foreign policy and economic processes in recent decades.
  • Recent bilateral engagements endorsed or set in place by Prime Ministers Abbott and Modi, and taken forward by Modi and Prime Minister Turnbull include the Comprehensive Economic Agreement (CECA), the Civil Nuclear Co-operation Agreement and the Framework for Security Co-operation.
  • Regional multilateral engagements, both shared and separate, show either little movement, are stable or are advancing.
  • Significant outcomes of Turnbull’s and Modi’s meeting in 2017 were Australia’s commitment to a framework agreement to join the International Solar Alliance, and the announcement of Australia’s India Economic Strategy.
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