Terms of Reference Signed between India and Australia

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    Recently, the Indian and the Australian Navy signed the ‘Terms of Reference’ (ToR) for the conduct of the navy to navy talks under the framework of the ‘Joint Guidance for the India – Australia Navy to Navy Relationship’ document.

    • This is the first such document signed by the Indian Navy with any country.

    Background 

    • The inaugural navy to navy talks with Australia was held in 2005. Bilateral defence relations between India and Australia have significantly expanded over the years.

    About 

    • The highlights of the document included close cooperation in regional and multilateral fora, including the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS), Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and expert working groups subordinate to the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus framework.
      • The document was aligned to the ‘2020 Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ agreed by the Prime Ministers and aimed to ensure shared approaches to regional and global security challenges.
    • The document set the navy to navy talks as the principal medium for guiding bilateral cooperation.
    • Significance : 
      • The document would be pivotal in consolidating the shared commitment to promoting peace, security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
      • It will help in deeper mutual understanding, trust and transparency, improved goodwill and understanding of each other’s concerns and future directions.

    India-Australia Relations

    • Diplomatic
      • India and Australia established diplomatic relations in the pre-Independence period, with the establishment of the India Trade Office in Sydney in 1941
      • The end of the Cold War and simultaneously India’s decision to launch major economic reforms in 1991 provided the first positive move towards the development of closer ties between the two nations. 
    • Strategic
      • Australia looks at India as an important partner in promoting regional security and stability.
      • This led to upgradation of the bilateral relationship to a Strategic Partnership, including a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation in 2009
    • Bilateral Engagement
      • Bilateral mechanisms include high-level visits, Annual Meetings of Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue, Joint Trade and Commerce Ministerial Commission, India-Australia ‘2+2’ Foreign Secretaries and Defence Secretaries Dialogue, Defence Policy Talks, Australia-India Education Council, Defence Services Staff Talks, etc.
    • Multilateral Engagement
      • Both countries have close cooperation in multilateral fora like Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and G20.
      • The Quadrilateral Framework (QUAD) of India and Australia along with the US and Japan emphasise the collective resolve to maintain a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.
    • Bilateral Trade
      • India is the 5th largest trade partner of Australia with trade in goods and services at Australian Dollar 29 billion representing 3.6 percent share of the total Australian trade in 2017-18, with export at AD 8 billion and import at AD 21 billion. 
      • India’s main exports to Australia are refined petroleum, medicaments, railway vehicles including hover-trains, pearls, gems, jewellery, made up textile articles.
      • India’s main imports are coal, copper ores and concentrate, gold, vegetables, wool and other animal hair, fruits and nuts, lentils and education-related services.
      • India Australia Circular Economy (I-ACE) Hackathon 2021 was an effort to strengthen bi-lateral innovations in Circular Economy.
    • Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement
      • It was signed between the two countries in September 2014 during the visit of the Australian Prime Minister to India.
      • The Australian Parliament passed the Civil Nuclear Transfer to India Bill 2016 which ensures that Uranium mining companies in Australia may fulfil contracts to supply Australian uranium to India for civil use.
    • Defence
    • In 2014, both sides decided to extend defence cooperation to cover research, development and industry engagement and agreed to hold regular meetings at the level of the Defence Minister conduct regular maritime exercises and convene regular service-to-service talks
    • The first-ever Bilateral Maritime Exercise, AUSINDEX, was conducted in Visakhapatnam (Bay of Bengal) in September 2015.
    • In 2018, the Indian Air Force participated for the first time in the Exercise Pitch Black in Australia.
    • INS Sahyadri participated in Kakadu, the biennial exercise of the Australian Navy held in 2018, in which 27 nations participated. 
    • The 4th edition of AUSTRAHIND (Special Forces of Army Exercise) was held in September 2019.
    • ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’, Mutual Logistics Support Agreement, the conduct of trilateral Maritime Security Workshop and RAN participation in Exercise MALABAR are significant milestones that underline the role played by both Navies in bolstering this relationship in recent times. 
    • Environment
    • It is an area where there is a great opportunity for India and Australia to work together since both countries had similar commitments.
    • The flagship program of National Innovation for Climate Resilient Agriculture and collaboration with the research organisations of Australia.
    • Indian Community
      • The Indian community in Australia continues to grow in size and importance, with a population of nearly half seven lakhs.
      • India is now the third-largest source of immigrants to Australia, after the UK and New Zealand and the largest source of skilled professionals for Australia.
      • There is a  constant flow of students and tourists from India
      • The growing significance of the community is reflected in the large-scale celebration of Indian festivals in Australia, especially Deepawali.

    Source: TH