India, Australia should work towards ensuring Manmohan Singh visit before G-20

New Delhi, Dec. 7 (ANI): India and Australia should work towards an Indian Prime Ministerial visit to Australia and consult closely in the lead-up to the G20 summit in Brisbane in 2014, suggested the 4th Australia-India Roundtable held in New Delhi.

It noted that with Indians comprising one of the largest and fastest-growing communities in Australia, there is great scope to harness societal links to strengthen political and business ties. It is essential to build constituencies to champion Australia-India relations in both countries during future potential phases of trouble, which occur in any bilateral relationship, roundtable co-chairs' statement said.

The roundtable, hosted by Observer Research Foundation with Australian partners the Australia-India Institute, University of Melbourne and the Lowy Institute for International Policy, Sydney, suggested that India and Australia should also deepen their security collaboration, including through regular bilateral naval exercises.

Potential areas for future defence cooperation include development of amphibious capabilities, submarine rescue, operational communication links, and maritime domain awareness in overlapping zones of interest in the Indian Ocean, it pointed out.

It was also suggested that the two nations should bring together maritime legal specialists to develop shared understandings on critical regional issues such as freedom of navigation.

It also said the two countries should maintain and deepen their dialogues with China and other powers to provide reassurance about the stabilising nature of deeper Australia-India security relations.

The roundtable was supported by the Public Diplomacy Division of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and the Australia-India Council, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

One of the key conclusions reached at the roundtable was that the relationship between Australia and India is poised at an historic moment. Consciously overcoming a challenging period, leaders of the two countries have realised new levels of mutual trust and confidence that are in turn generating policy momentum.

The other key conclusion was that with new positive impulses at hand, links between the two democracies now need sustained creative thinking and efforts on the part of government, business and society to strengthen them further. This will ensure the relationship attains the vast potential offered by the two nations' exceptional economic and societal complementarities and their convergent strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific region during this Asian Century.

The dialogue involved a candid and dynamic exchange of insights and assessments between more than 50 experts, officials, parliamentarians, business representatives and journalists from the two countries. These conversations have resulted in a host of ideas for leaders and policy makers on both sides to consider and act upon.

The roundtable noted that there are strong complementarities between Australia and India in the field of long term energy co-operation. An Australia-India energy partnership should cover the full mix of energy sources.

It said Australia and India should redouble efforts to bring together industry and research communities on clean coal technology and to share experience on sustainable mining practices since it was inevitable that coal and natural gas would continue to play a major role in India's energy security.

The roundtable noted that the timing is right to move towards market based models of co-operation that could provide a long-term and stable foundation for the flow of investments as well as energy resources between the two countries. A full energy partnership would require clear benchmarks and processes for Australian investment in Indian mining, the transparent operation of energy markets, and the facilitation of two-way investment in energy and resources infrastructure.

There is scope for joint Australia-India work on hybrid solar, wind and diesel units, which could operate independent of the grid and provide reliable, base-load power to remote communities, it was noted.

The co-chairs of the roundtables were Dr. C. Raja Mohan, Distinguished Fellow, ORF, and Dr. Rory Medcalf of Lowy Institute, Sydney. (ANI)

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