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Inaugural Australian Political Exchange Council Delegation visit IDSA

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  • December 02, 2010

    Chair: Dr. G. Balachandran

    The Australian Young Political Leaders’ Delegation comprising seven members visited IDSA on December 2, 2010. The discussion focused on “India and her neighbours including China”. This was the first Australian delegation on political exchange visiting India. It was led by Ms. Melissa Parke (MP), Federal Member for Fremantle, representing the Australian Labor Party. Accompanying her were Ms. Rita Saffioti (MLA), Western Australian State Member for West Swan, Australian Labor Party, and Parliamentary Staffers from the Liberal Party of Australia, the Nationals and the Australian Greens. Dr. G. Balachandran chaired the session. Australian PM Kevin Rudd’s visit to New Delhi in November 2009 marked a turning point in the bilateral relationship. The signing of the Joint Statement “India-Australia Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation” suggested the evolving of a close and long term relationship. In this regard both countries are working towards developing an action plan with specific measures to advance security cooperation in a wide range of security and related areas—counter-terrorism, transnational and organised crime, defence, disarmament and non-proliferation, and maritime security.

    The delegation was interested to know how India perceives its relations with Pakistan in the next decade with emphasis on Kashmir. Dr. Balachandran pointed out that a problem of about 60 years cannot be resolved in a span of 10 years. The tensions within Kashmir and with Pakistan have become more skewed due to recent developments including the 26/11 Mumbai attack. Adding to this, Dr. Upadhayay clarified that the root problem was internal. He emphasised that Kashmir is not only a political issue, but involves religion which makes matters difficult to sort out. Moreover, to resolve matters, a stabilized and democratic Pakistan needs to be brought about. On India’s strategic posturing vis-à-vis China, Dr. R N Das commented that India uses a multi-pronged strategy by involving China in bilateral and multilateral dialogues. In terms of the Tibet issue, China reacts only when it is related to the Dalai Lama. Dr. Das pointed out that so far China has never made any request or demand for the return of Tibetan refugees.

    Ms. Parke commented that China’s presence in Australia cannot be underestimated. This has led to a surge in Australia’s economy for the last five years, for instance, in the ferrous industry. However, there are concerns among the general public over the Chinese dominance. On the issue of whether Australia would re-think its policy on uranium export to India, Ms. Parke replied that the Australian position was firm in terms of not exporting uranium to non-NPT countries. Moreover, for decades, uranium mining has been a major part of the Australian political landscape, with opposition groups citing environmental, indigenous land access, and nuclear proliferation as reasons for ceasing or restricting the industry. The debate has resulted in limitations on mining and export activities, with Federal and State governments occasionally flip-flopping on public policy. Hence the Australian Labor Party has to regard the policies of other political parties on uranium mining.

    In addition to the above, there was also a general discussion on issues related to cyber attacks, India’s position regarding erosion of democracy in Sri Lanka, diplomatic ties with North and South Korea, on Japan, Obama’s visit to India, etc.

    Report prepared by Joyce Sabina Lobo, Research Assistant, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.