In 20 years, India will be one of the major geopolitical players in Asia, providing some balance to the existing power equations in the region, an Australian envoy has said.
Barry O’Farrell, the special envoy of New South Wales, the southeastern Australian state, to India, said that India’s rise is good news for Australia as well as the Indian Ocean region.
Asked if the slowdown in the Indian economy would affect the potential for enhanced trade relationship between the two countries, Mr. O’Farrell said: “I don’t think so. We all are in danger. But if you take a long-term view, India is moving towards only one direction. The Indian elephant is getting bigger. It’s good for defence contracts, it’s good for Australia, it’s good for the Indian Ocean region,” Mr. O’Farrell, who was the former chief minister of NSW, told The Hindu here.
According to Mr. O’Farrell, both India and Australia are committed to tap this potential. “Given India’s strengths, its population and trajectory, there’s enormous potential for India-Australia relationship.”
The envoy was in India to take part in the Australia Business Week which took place from August 28 to September 1 in multiple cities. A business delegation from NSW accompanied Mr. O’Farrell seeking business partnerships with Indian entities. NSW has has established sisterly relationship with two Indian states — Maharashtra and Gujarat.
India-Australia trade stands at $14.1 billion, but it is largely skewed towards Australia. In 2016, India’s exports to the country stood at 2.9 billion, while India imported goods worth 11.15 billion from Australia. Asked if there are any policy level interventions to address the trade imbalance, Mr. O’Farrell said it’s a mutual concern. “Good relationship is a balanced relationship. But there are some structural issues. We are a big country with a small population. Our consumption is smaller.”
Besides trade, Mr. O’Farrell sees a number of sectors where India-Australia ties can prosper. These include defence, education, agriculture and tourism.
At present there are around 15,000 Indian students in Australia. “The world-class education system in Australia is attracting many Indians,” he said. Tourism is also a thrust area. In 2016, 259,900 Indian travellers visited Australia, according to data by Tourism Australia.
Key defence partner
On defence, Australia has identified India as a key partner to maintain stability and rule-based international order in the Indo-Pacific region. Asked what’s Australia’s position on the recent India-China border tensions over Doklam in the Himalayan region, Mr. O’Farrell said he could not speak about border issues of countries except Australia. “Australia is very strong in protecting its borders.”