Skip to comments.India, a powerful friend to have (Australian editorial)
Posted on 03/03/2006 9:39:34 AM PST by indcons
AUSTRALIA and India, the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, once remarked with acute insight, are two countries with a great deal in common but which have very little to do with each other.
Prime Minister John Howard will try to remedy that tomorrow night when he arrives in Delhi for a three-day visit to India which will also take in Mumbai, the commercial and entertainment capital, and Chennai (formerly Madras), the heart of Tamil civilisation.
Howard's visit is deadly serious. It is a recognition of the unique intersection of geo-strategic, economic, cultural and diplomatic importance which is accumulating around New Delhi in a process of great historic importance.
On every front that counts, in every policy question that defines our age, India is a central part of the equation. Australia must do much better with India than it has in the past.
The Australian bureaucracy has had three impediments to understanding and acting on the real importance of India. These are: an obsession with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, an obsession with China and a tendency to group all things Indian with Pakistan.
All of these destructive bureaucratic habits of mind need to be broken if Australia is to reach anything like its potential with India.
Howard's visit follows hot on the heels of George W. Bush, who in turn barely missed France's Jacques Chirac, who in turn was in New Delhi only shortly after Britain's Tony Blair. All of these leaders recognise the centrality of India to the new global equations. Howard will be accompanied by a big business delegation and this is as it should be. The potential economic relationship between Australia and India is vast. Already India is our sixth largest export market, ahead of Britain, with total two-way trade of $10 billion, with the balance substantially in our favour.
India's budget, brought down this week, indicates growth of more than 8 per cent in the Indian economy this year, a similar figure to that achieved in the past few years. This puts India just behind China in growth rate for a substantial economy.
India stands in direct line to Japan and China as likely to produce the same economic opportunities for Australia that those other two Asian giants did. The energy demands alone of India's rapid development will be huge. It will need other bulk commodities in enormous quantities. But more than that, the potential in service industries is almost limitless as India's middle class is growing exponentially.
You can get all kinds of startling statistics out of the Indian economy. About a third of all computer engineers in the US's Silicon Valley are Indians, but there are now more Indian computer engineers in Bangalore, India's high-tech capital, than in Silicon Valley.
India, like China, is still a difficult market and Australian companies can often do with the help of government agencies such as Austrade. But there are already 25,000 Indian students studying in Australia. India has been the fourth highest source of migrants to Australia in the Howard decade. Given the irreducible connections of cricket and the English language, this is a relationship waiting to boom, apparently designed in heaven and awaiting only the merest human agency to take off spectacularly.
But in some ways the economic stuff is the easy bit. There will be no opposition to this from anyone and it's just a matter of Australian energy, infrastructure and effort.
But other parts of the relationship are more complex and demand a more significant input from the political level of leadership, from Howard himself and from cabinet.
In 1998 India tested a nuclear weapon. This was a shocking moment for the world as it breached the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, although India had never signed the NPT. At first the policy impulse of the US and Australia was to try to reverse India's decision, an utterly futile and pointless position.
Australia over-reacted to the Indian test and in fact the US accommodated India before Australia did, leaving Canberra in the bizarre, though not totally novel, position of defending territory that the US had abandoned. It is not only futile to expect India ever to give up its nuclear weapons, it can damage good policy. The priority now must be to assist India in making sure it has good command and control procedures to keep its nuclear arsenal safe, and helping it develop a peaceful nuclear energy industry so that it will need to chew up fewer fossil fuels in its burgeoning development.
Moreover, there is a central strategic dimension to all of this, which is India considered vis-a-vis China. India and China, though they have a history of conflict, now have quite good bilateral relations. However, China has opposed India getting a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and has opposed a regularised relationship for India with the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
No one can play the India card against China. India is far too powerful and independent for that. Nor, indeed, would anyone want to. It's in everyone's interests for India and China to have a stable, peaceful and economically enriching relationship.
However, India undoubtedly does provide a balance to China at several levels. First, at the strategic level. India is an important military power with a continental-size landmass, formidable armed forces and a developing blue-water navy.
Just by being there, being itself and being successful, India vastly complicates any potential Chinese leadership's move towards an aggressive posture, should any Chinese leadership be so tempted in the future.
As former US ambassador to India Robert Blackwill has argued, it is overwhelmingly in the US's interests (and in Australia's interests, too) for there to be a broad strategic parity between India and China. It would be against Western interests for India to be permanently consigned to an inferior status militarily to China.
In the nuclear realm, India has a perfect record of never having proliferated nuclear weapons material or technology to any other nation. China on the other hand has an appalling record, not recently but in the past, of giving nuclear technology to Pakistan and North Korea. If Islamist terrorists ever do get their hands on nuclear materials the ultimate design is likely to have come, albeit unwittingly, from China.
Therefore it would be insane for the US and its allies to freeze India out of this technology while China enjoys unfettered nuclear co-operation. Bush and Prime Minister Singh are trying hard to work out a nuclear deal in which India separates its military and civilian nuclear programs and then the US engages in full nuclear co-operation with India.
When the outlines of this deal were first announced Howard was broadly supportive of it. In time this could have significant implications for Australia as an exporter of uranium. Certainly if Australia is to export uranium to China it is difficult to see an argument against exporting it to India.
The Australian bureaucracy needs a dose of new thinking on these issues, and this can only come from Howard and Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer.
Similarly, as well as supporting India for a seat on the UN Security Council, Australia should announce unilateral support for Indian membership of APEC and should invite India to attend next year's APEC summit in Sydney.
India also plays a central role in the war on terror. With 130 million Muslims, India has the most Muslims of any nation apart from Indonesia.
Yet not a single Indian has joined al-Qa'ida. No Indian was discovered in Afghanistan. None is held in Guantanamo Bay. This is a great tribute to India's secular democracy. This democracy is another way in which India balances China - and that is ideologically. It is impossible to argue that democracy is not practical for poor, big countries, or that it is a Western construct, with India in the room.
Increasingly India plays a pivotal role in Asian organisations. It is part of the East Asia Summit. It was part of the core group, with the US, Japan and Australia, in responding to the Asian tsunami of Boxing Day 2004. And it is part of the partnership for clean development with the US, Australia, Japan, China and South Korea.
The Australia-India partnership is pregnant with possibility. Can Howard be the midwife of history this week?
Excellent editorial by an Australian journalist who gets it (unfortunately, he is one of the few who gets it).
Australia won't sell uranium to India, since it fears India may proliferate.
But they're contemplating signing a deal with China to supply it with 9000 tons of the stuff.
>>>Pakistan, Libya, Iran and North Korea mysteriously seemed elated.
Some Australians understand the changing realities in Asia....John Howard is not one of them. He is truly a dinosaur among men.
That said, there are many opportunities for trade and friendship between Australia and India. However, friendship is not a one-way street. Most Indians have not forgotten the vile insults targeted toward them by the previous Australian govt. in 1998/99.
Australia-India relation is very very important for India and Australia. Australia is in between US and India, a strategic point connecting the two by waters. If India is under attack and US comes to help by any chance, Australia will be one of the bases to send military aides to India. For India, Australia is in the location between the America continent, critical for security of transportation of goods by ship, going down the route near Australia. I would strongly hope both Indians and Australians to consider both as important partners and warm friendship for that will benefit both. I am very glad PM Howard made a visit to India recently. This will strengthen US-India-Australia-Japan ties. We are all the protectors of democracy and civilization, and the relationship of four will guarantee a stable security of Pacific and Indian Ocean.
"Well said" bump....I hope trade relations also increase between both countries. Both Australia and India are surrounded by radical islamist regimes. The future alliance in Asia will probably consist of USA, India, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Phillipines, Thailand, and Taiwan.
I am not sure where the muslim "tiger economies" like Malaysia fit into this scheme though.
Australia cannot ignore the importance of India. It is between Middle East and Australia, which the oil may travel through nearby India. In case of hostility near India, Australia may be concerned for the threats of trades between Middle East regions. Australia exports live stocks to Middle East, and in exchange, oil is imported to Australia. Australia will need some help from India in this case. Meanwhile, the growing threats of China may also be a concern for Australia, including the recent revelaed case by a refugee that China attepted to politically colonize Australia. Australia will also need help from India for regional security, and to counter China's threat. Let is forgive the sins of the past. Everyone makes mistakes. We must focus on the threats of China that is happening today. We must gather together for to help eachother from threats by China. Let US-India-Australia-Japan shake eachothers hands and work for the common goals to protect our common interets.
Good to comment about Thailand. If India and Thailand works together, that would strengthen the security of the Malacca Strait. While Thailand's Air Carrier has political problems, both India and Thailand are the few that operates Air Carriers. That means very much for both.
"Meanwhile, the growing threats of China may also be a concern for Australia, including the recent revelaed case by a refugee that China attepted to politically colonize Australia."
WOW!!!!....what's this story about? Are the ChiComs trying to finance communist parties in Australia?
"Let US-India-Australia-Japan shake eachothers hands and work for the common goals to protect our common interets."
Malaysia is in fact a classical Muslim Third World nationalist country that is becoming dangerously anti-American since the 1980s - they believe in the universality of Asian values and not postmodern relativism. And one thing makes it more dangerous than anything like Bolivia, Nassar Egypt, or pre-Suharto Indeoesia: its leaders aren't so stupid as to forteiting market economic development altogether. It has a certain degree of economic freedom.
I think in the long term we better watch out Malaysia. I remember they were busily trying to garner Japan's supports in the 1990s (when it seemed US-Japanese relations were pretty distant), and now trying to curry favours with the PRC in the days when we see a renewed US-Japan military alliance.
To sell uranium to china but not India is plain ridiculous.
Excellent write up. Hope John Howard gets it.
WEll China is a signatory to the NPT,so in purely legal terms,they have every right to buy it from anyone inc.the US.
Its a small matter about whom they will hawk it in turn to!!
Thats why the NPT is such a non-productive treaty
For China to have that right and India not having the right exposes the sham that it is. China also has responsibilities
under NPT which they ignore and the other idiot nations in that treaty dont hold them accountable.
Malaysia's wealth is primarily due to the Chinese living there (mostly Christian) and secondarily to the smaller community of Indians (mostly Hindu but some Christian). The local Malays just sit on their behinds. They wouldn't have gotten anywhere if it wasn't for the apartheid laws passed by Mahathir Mohammed. Pity about China though -- once they chuck off their communist party, I'd more than welcome them into the brotherhood of nations: the Chinese are good people -- look at the marvellous examples of overseas Chinese in places from Taiwan to Canada to australia to the UK to the US
I wish I could post some of the comments made by the politicians, Cronos. However, I am unable to find the necessary links (the stories are 7-8 years old after all).
However, the most vicious comments re: the nuclear tests came from Australia and New Zealand and they were quite intemperate.
That said, all that is in the past and it looks like India an dAustralia may normalize relations in the very near future.
Kudos to Pres. Bush for understanding India better than anybody else.
You wouldn't believe how many friends of mine from Malaysia that told me in no uncertain terms how lazy the native Malays are. Almost every significant business in Malaysia has them Chinese running the show but it is the Malays who are showing up as the bosses (in name only).
They also complain how much Islamic prayer sessions television stations show - when the prayer time is due all normal programmes stop and then Korans are broadcast. Add to it the incredible corruptions from Malay bureaucrats in government and it is a recipe for discontent.
Also Singapore, and possibly Vietnam. I think we can count Malaysia and Indonesia out of this alliance, though.
kind of similar to the Middle East --> all the businesses there are run by Indians.
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