India and Australia have also pledged to move on towards completing the signing of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement
India-Australia ties have always been on a good wicket, more so since Quad became a strategic alignment among the United States, Japan, India, and Australia six years ago. The ties have matured to a point that the Indian Prime Minister could convey, bluntly enough, that such ties cannot be allowed to be harmed by stray elements like Khalistani sympathisers who were behind the vandalism perpetrated recently on temples and community centres in Australia.
The problem of separatist elements using democratic rights of protest and demonstration for the romantic notion of a Khalistani nation may have been there for a while. In fact, it surfaced 31 years ago when India and Pakistan met for the first ever time in a World Cup cricket match and members of the International Sikh Youth Federation marched around the Sydney Cricket Ground, wearing orange turbans and letting everyone know they were supporting Pakistan.
The police force kept a close watch on them, but the spectators, made up of people from both nations, were too absorbed in the cricket to pay them too much attention. Members of the Indian diaspora, comprising mostly professionals in doctors and engineers from the early days of Australian migration and who have grown several folds to over a million now, have been model ambassadors for India who have also done well for themselves in Australia’s melting pot of cultures.
A spurt of anti-India activity has sprung up again as evidenced in the string of attacks of vandalism and a bit of violence, the subject of which was brought up by Mr Narendra Modi who was one Quad leader to keep his prearranged appointment with Australia after a planned Quad meeting in Sydney was advanced and held in Hiroshima, Japan to accommodate Mr Joe Biden’s preoccupation with the US debt ceiling.
The Indian Prime Minister’s visit Down Under after 10 years and the event to commemorate it with the renaming of the Harris Park in Paramatta as “Little India” is not to be gauged in whether the 18,000-seater Qudos Bank arena was sold out or not. The warmth of the bilateral meetings and the depth of ties were proved in the tone and tenor of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s responses to the points Mr Modi made in his speeches and in the formal exchanges.
The special relationship, on since 2012 when the Australian government of the day decided to sell uranium despite India not being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a limited amount of the mineral was indeed sold to India in 2017, took off to a much higher plane in 2021 when Quad took real shape. The partnership can only gain strength after the signing of agreements to put into effect Migration and Mobility to promote exchanges in education, research and business and making final the terms of reference for a joint Green Hydrogen task force.
India and Australia have also pledged to move on towards completing the signing of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement before the end of the year, besides opening of consulates by India and Australia in Sydney and Bengaluru, respectively. Australia may have had four Prime Ministers — Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison, and Antony Albanese — during Mr Modi’s nine years in office as PM of India, but ties have grown exponentially in that time despite minor glitches in student visas and the actions of separatist elements though the Khalistani sympathisers are Australian citizens now.