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Australian Special Envoy Abbott Sets Tongues Rolling about the Tilt Away from China

Tony Abbott, the Special Envoy of the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was on a visit to India last week to discuss the nuances of the prospective bilateral trade deal between the two countries. During his meeting with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, discussions ranged from trade, to economy, to people to people ties with the aim of strengthening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two countries. 

Amongst other things about the meet, an opinion piece that he wrote after his visit has gathered much attention. He described India as a “democracy under the rule of law, & as a world’s second-largest producer of steel and pharmaceuticals, and its own version of Silicon Valley, India is perfectly placed to substitute for China in global supply chains”. This clearly indicates the Australian inclination towards India and characterises what is being called as “democratic world’s tilt away from China”. The western countries have been advocating democracy as a political system and have been aligning with those following it. China on many occasions expressed its disapproval of the group politics operating. 

Abbott’s opinion piece goes in line with the general global mood where the world is divided into two groups. He explicitly said that for every question about China, the answer will be found in India. It translates to the necessity of a strong position for India in order to check the Chinese rise. It also indicates the interest in Indian rise as a global power for political, economic and structural reasons.

India and Australia over the years have continued to engage in discussions ranging from defence to trade to economy. The Prime Ministers of both the countries interact regularly at major international meetings like the G20, East Asia Summit, etc. The Foreign Ministers too meet at intervals for the Foreign Minister’s Framework Dialogue alternately held in India and Australia. 

India and Australia are expected to hold the high level 2+2 talks in September 2021. “2+2 talks” refer to an interaction between the Defence Ministers and Foreign Affairs Ministers of two countries. India and Australia decided to meet every 2 years to discuss strategic issues after the elevation of their relationship to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Basically, it is a meeting between two high profile ministers of different countries to address common concerns of foreign policy. 

In the past, Australia and China enjoyed cordial relations when Tony Abbott was the Prime Minister. His extreme change in opinion highlights the current overturn of global dynamics. 

The 2+2 talks to be held next month are much awaited and are being eyed for a strong trade deal though the Prime Ministers of both the countries will meet at the Quad summit before that.