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Improving on zero: Australia and India attempt strategic convergence

By Graeme Dobell

India no longer sees Australia as merely a strategic stooge of the US. And Australia is starting to accord India the importance India always saw as its right. Those are big changes in attitude and policy—and in the two countries’ understanding of each other’s interests.

Strategy: The Australia–India strategic relationship was in zero territory—often in negative mode—for much of the 20th century; indeed, effectively since India’s independence. In the 21st century, though, Australia and India can reach for greater strategic convergence.

People: Australia in the 21st century can have a set of relationships with India based on people as much as on economic and strategic need.

Economics and trade: As China slows economically, Australia turns to India. The negotiation of an Australia–India free trade deal—a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement—aims to match the bilateral agreements Australia reached with China, Japan and South Korea.

Improving on zero: The previous negative relationship was based on a lot of hard history (White Australia, the Cold War, alliance versus non-alignment and India’s nuclear weapons status). This time it’s different—our astigmatism and the antagonisms should not derail the opportunity, and the need, to see each other clearly and do much more together.