Barry O’Farrell is the perfect man for Australia-India Council

Sydney, NSW 10th June, 2015

Barry O'FarrellI am happy to know that Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop, has appointed Barry O’Farrell, former Premier of NSW, as the Deputy Chairman of Australia-India Council (AIC) Board, which operates under Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

AIC details: http://dfat.gov.au/people-to-people/foundations-councils-institutes/australia-india-council/Pages/australia-india-council.aspx

AIC’s tasks include:

  • raise awareness of Australia in India, and of India in Australia in a way that encourages further growth in relations between the two countries, including in the trade and investment relationship
  • promote exchange and collaboration between Australian and Indian organisations in fields of relevance to the bilateral strategic partnership
  • deliver high quality programs that demonstrate Australia’s economic credentials and technical excellence to influential audiences in India
  • seek community involvement in, and private sector support for, the Council’s diplomacy efforts including by encouraging corporate investment in collaborations that advance Australia India relations
  • publicise the Council’s activities as a means of encouraging broad support for the Council’s role and the bilateral relationship

AIC Board is currently chaired by Ashok Jacob (Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Ellerston Capita, and Director of Crown Ltd). Other members of AIC include Prof Robyn Batterham (University of Melbourne), Mr Michael Kasprowicz (Former Test Cricketer), Neema Premji (Director of Premji Board Consultancy and Management Services), Payal Mahendroo (Australia India Youth Dialogue) and Sheba Nandkeolyar (AIBC).

Barry retired from NSW Parliament at the March 2015 election for NSW Parliament, after been an MP since 1995 and NSW Premier between 2011-2014. He led annual Trade delegations to India since 2011 and has significant connections in India and Indian community in NSW. He expertise in Australia India matters is second to none.

Let us hope that relations (Political and Trade) between Australia and India pick up speed and reach a new height, with Barry’s joining of AIC Board.

Dr Yadu Singh

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Expectations from Prime Minister Modi

Dr Yadu SinghSydney, 14th November, 2014

Expectations from the Modi Govt

Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, is visiting Australia between 15th and 18th Nov, 2014. After attending G20 summit in Brisbane on 15th and 16th November, he will start his state visit. Indian community is excited with this visit. This is the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister after PM Rajiv Gandhi visited Australia in 1986. PM Modi will interact with the community in Sydney and Melbourne, in addition to addressing a Joint session of Australian Parliament.

Prime Minister Modi’s image is that of a decisive and a “can do” leader. Indians, not just in India but around the world, are optimistic that things will change for the better and the Indian economy will grow rapidly.

When I wrote a post in June, 2014, I mentioned many things which people expected. Many of those things have either been delivered or getting delivered. Prime Ministerial visit to Australia is one of them. Nuclear trade deal has already been signed when Prime Minister Tony Abbott visited India in September. Australian citizens getting the facility of Visa on arrival in India is another one which is in the process of getting implemented. Serious work is in progress in regards to Black money, stashed in overseas Banks. Supreme Court’s activism is playing an important role in it. Investigations and prosecutions are likely to commence soon. Based on my interactions with many Indians in Australia, there are a few more things that people expect the new government to deliver.

Genuine dual citizenship: This has been discussed and debated for long. There is an almost universal demand that overseas Indians be given a right to hold genuine dual citizenship with voting and property rights, if the country of their citizenship has no issue with this and if there are no security issues with granting dual citizenship to any particular overseas Indian. If USA, UK, Australia and most of developed and democratic countries as well as some countries in the region see no issues in granting dual citizenship to their citizens, then people argue that there is no rational basis for India to deny dual citizenship to Indians. PM Modi has the political capital to deliver this long-standing demand. A petition and campaign for Dual citizenship is running on Change.org (http://tinyurl.com/kxtlosw) and Social media presently (http://tinyurl.com/m4b4luu).

Effective anti-corruption body: A group of 10-15 people from civil society including eminent jurists and overseas Indians (if possible) as well as politicians should be asked to review the Lokpal Act, passed by the Lok Sabha earlier, and suggest steps to rectify weaknesses to make it an effective corruption fighting body. Such body should have sufficient resources to discharge its functions. Unlike previous Govts, this whole process to fine-tune this should not take more than one year from the time NDA Govt took office.

The PM’s global Overseas Indians Advisory body: The PM should revamp his Global Advisory Body, constituted by the previous Govt. People in it should be those who have significant presence, influence and interactions among Indians in their countries. The practice of Indian diplomats recommending their sycophants to become members of this body should be done away with.

Country specific Overseas Indian Advisory body: Countries with significant overseas Indian populations (Australia is certainly one such country) should have an advisory body of not more than 10 people, which can be used for consultations and other advisory purposes, not only by the local GOI authorities/agencies, but also the relevant authorities/agencies in India. Its term should be for not more than 2 years.

Annual consultation between High Commission and Community: Previous High Commissioner of India in Australia, and current External Affairs Secretary, Smt Sujatha Singh, started a novel, and productive, mechanism to meet the community representatives in Canberra on a yearly basis. Representatives from all over Australia would assemble on a weekend to discuss and suggest things to Indian diplomats. Current High Commissioner, Biren Nanda, did not continue this practice. The communication from High Commission and community has been limited and confined to a small group of people, who are close to HCI. Previous practice of community consultation needs to be reactivated.

Annual dialogue between Indian and Australian leaders: Indian Australians will like to see formal and regular annual meetings between PMs, Foreign Affairs Ministers and Defence Ministers, with venues alternating between India and Australia.

Free Trade Agreement (FTA): The pace of the discussions and negotiations should be accelerated so that FTA can be concluded by the end of 2015. This will accelerate bilateral trade which has come down to about $15 billion from previous high of $21 billion. This is important as Australia already has FTAs with Japan, South Korea and China.

Bilateral and multi-lateral defence exercises between India and Australia: India and Australia should work actively to enhance their defence & strategic relations bilaterally and multilaterally in the pattern agreed prior to the 2007 Rudd Govt in Australia.

Hindi teachings in Australian Universities: To increase India’s soft power and increase the numbers of India-literate Australians, India should consider seriously funding such teaching courses in at least one University each in Sydney and Melbourne. Discussions should be had between relevant authorities to explore equal sharing of cost between Australia and India.

Facilitations of Australian Universities and TAFE to have campuses in India: Many Australian institutions are ranked quite highly in various world Universities ranking systems. Collaborations in this field should be actively facilitated and encouraged, following a pragmatic and win-win module. Indian regulations to facilitate this should be considered.

Recognition of TAFE diploma in India: Many Indian students come to Australia to train in TAFE institutes. Many then move on to Universities to complete degrees. In addition to the diplomas not being recognised to the extent that the students wanting to pursue this study in Australia do not even get the education loans, Association of Indian Universities (the peak body responsible for recognising foreign degrees) does not recognise even Bachelor degrees that may have resulted from a credit transfer after a diploma resulting in the degree component being lesser than 3 year duration. (Diploma to Degree). This is a unique feature of Australian Qualification framework and so should be understood by Educational authorities. Quite a good numbers of Indians in Australia have earned their degrees through this pathway. TAFE institutes are a unique institution and it will be beneficial for India to consider recognizing diplomas from TAFE.

Bilateral Internship positions for Australians and Indians: Institutes and Universities of repute in both countries should be encouraged to develop mechanisms to have short term (3-6 months) placements for students and researchers to enhance collaboration in science and research.

Indian media’s bureau/representatives in Australia: During 2009-10, Indian media reported issues involving Indian students in an exaggerated way, erroneously attributing racism in literally every incident. They did not interact with local long-term Indians. It was harder for media to have a grasp of the ground realities. It will be helpful if key media outlets consider basing their representatives in Australia to cover Oceania. With increasing trade related activities between Australia and India and with increased number of Indians here, there could be sufficient justification for such decisions. Indian Govt can encourage media houses to take up this matter. A good beginning could be of a posting a full time Press Trust of India (PTI) reporter in Australia.

Indian Consulate in Brisbane: Queensland is an important state for Indian investment. Indian business houses like the Adani group have an important and a significant presence in this state. It is important to have an Indian Consulate in Brisbane.

India House or Indian Cultural Centre in major capital cities: There are more than 500,000 people of Indian heritage in Australia, with a big concentration in Sydney and Melbourne. People believe that there should be Indian cultural centers in Australia, at least in Sydney and Melbourne. While some funding will be raised locally, a significant part of the funds should come from Indian Govt. Govt of India (GOI) Funds, if any, allocated for something of this nature to be established in the Indian Consulate premises in Sydney CBD should be reviewed and re-allocated for a center of this nature in areas like Parramatta or Blacktown, where the Indian community has a substantial presence. Sydney CBD is not a practical or appropriate site for an Indian Cultural Centre.

Overseas Indians’ property in India: Many overseas Indians are seeing that their properties are illegally occupied and face threats to their safety when they visit India. Court cases go on for extended periods of time. Indian Penal Code and relevant laws should be amended to tackle this menace.

Interactions between GOI agencies and Indian Australian community: It is often felt that GOI authorities in Australia do not interact with people sufficiently, thus leading to a communication gap. It is a common experience that there is a significant gap between what we expect and what is delivered. It is also felt that GOI officials often get embroiled in local community politics and play “favoritism” games depending on who they like or dislike. It is quite irrational and subjective. Steps should be implemented to improve the situation.

Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs visit to Australia: With approx. 500,000 people of Indian heritage in Australia, a biennial visit of Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs (The Hon Sushma Swaraj) or her deputy, The Hon Gen (Retd) V K Singh or External Affairs Secretary, should be included in the official GOI travel calendar. This will help facilitate interactions with the community and facilitate Overseas Indians’ investment in India.

Streamlined grievance redressal mechanism for Overseas Indians: Overseas Indian Affairs ministry has often not been very helpful and help has often not come in a timely fashion due to excessive bureaucratic influences. This should be reviewed and streamlined.

Exchanges between Academicians and civil Society leaders: We need regular bilateral exchange visits of academics, journalists, leaders and civil society leaders. This will help improve relations between the two countries. The scope and numbers should be increased.

In summary, it will be of mutual benefit to the community in Australia and India if the Indian government is proactive in considering the interests and welfare of the Indian community down under.

 

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/14th November, 2014

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What Indians in Australia expect from the Modi Govt

 

 
 
 

The new government should be proactive in considering the interests and welfare of the Indian community down under.

It is not a hyperbole to say that a new era has dawned in India with the swearing-in of the Modi Government on Monday, 26 May, 2014.

A decisive, “can do” leader, Sri Narendra Modi, is the Prime Minister. Indians, not just in India but around the world, are confident that things will change for the better and the Indian economy will grow rapidly.

People have expectations from the new government. While people have a wide variety of expectations, which they want the Modi Govt to deliver, there are some common themes in their expectations. Based on my interactions with many Indians in Australia, and based on my own thinking, there are a few things that people expect the new government to consider.

Prime Minister’s visit to Australia: There has not been any state visit by an Indian PM to Australia after the late Shri Rajiv Gandhi’s visit in 1980s. PM Modi should accept the invitation from Australia to schedule a state visit to Australia this year itself. Several Australian PMs have already visited India, but a reciprocal visit by an Indian PM is yet to happen. There should be time for the PM to interact with the community in at least one, but preferably two, major cities. The G20 summit is scheduled to happen in Brisbane on November 15 and 16, 2014. This will be a perfect opportunity for the Indian PM’s long overdue official visit to Australia too.

Genuine dual citizenship: This has been discussed and debated for long. There is an almost universal demand that overseas Indians be given a right to hold genuine dual citizenship with voting and property rights, if the country of their citizenship has no issue with this and if there are no security issues with granting dual citizenship to any particular overseas Indian. After all, Australia, USA, UK, NZ and many other developed as well as developing countries already offer this facility.

Visa on arrival for Australian citizens: Australian citizens, like many others including New Zealanders, should get the same visa-free arrival facilities in India. If this is not the case at present, it should be implemented without further delay.

Black money in overseas banks: Genuine, proactive and effective steps should be taken to tackle this menace and bring the money back to India within 12 months. No favour should be given to anyone irrespective of who they are or what connections they have. The decision to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) for this purpose is good.

Effective anti-corruption body: A group of 10-15 people from civil society including judges, eminent jurists and overseas Indians (if possible) should be asked to review the Lok Pal Act, passed by the Lok Sabha earlier in the year, and suggest steps to rectify weakness to make it an effective corruption fighting body. This should be completed in the next 12 months.

The PM’s global Overseas Indians Advisory body: The PM should revamp his Global Advisory Body, constituted by the previous PM. People in it should be those who have significant presence and influence in their countries. The habit of Indian diplomats recommending non-descript and non-influential people for this body should eliminated.

Country specific Overseas Indian Advisory body: Countries with significant overseas Indian population (Australia is certainly one such country) should have an advisory body of not more than 10 people, which can be used for consultations and other advisory purposes, not only by the local GOI authorities/agencies, but also the relevant authorities/agencies in India.

Annual dialogue between Indian and Australian leaders: PMs, Foreign Affairs Ministers and Defence Ministers should hold annual meeting/dialogue, with venues for such meeting/dialogue alternating between India and Australia.

Free Trade Agreement (FTA): The pace of the discussions and negotiations should be accelerated so that FTA can be concluded by the end of 2015.

Bilateral Nuclear Trade negotiations: The pace of the discussions and negotiations should be accelerated with the goal to conclude it by the 30 June, 2015.

Bilateral and multi-lateral defence exercises between India and Australia: India and Australia should work actively to enhance their defence & strategic relations bilaterally and multilaterally in the pattern agreed prior to the 2007 Rudd Govt in Australia.

Hindi teachings in Australian Universities: To increase India’s soft power and increase the numbers of India-literate Australians, India should consider funding such teaching courses in some select Universities in Australia.

Facilitations of Australian Universities and TAFE to have campuses in India: Many Australian institutions are ranked quite highly in various world Universities ranking systems. Collaborations in this field should be actively facilitated and encouraged, following a pragmatic and win-win module.

Indian Consulate in Brisbane: Queensland is an important state for Indian investment. Indian business houses like the Adani group have an important and a significant presence in this state. It is important to have an Indian Consulate in Brisbane.

India House or Indian Cultural Centre in major capital cities: The Indian community has grown significantly in Australia. It is increasingly felt that such centres are required, at least in Sydney and Melbourne. While some funding will be raised locally, a significant part of the funds should come from Indian Govt. Govt of India (GOI) Funds, if any, allocated for something of this nature to be established in the Indian Consulate premises in Sydney CBD should be reviewed and re-allocated for a centre of this nature in areas like Parramatta or Blacktown, where the Indian community has a substantial presence. Sydney CBD is not a practical or appropriate site for an Indian Cultural Centre.

Overseas Indians’ property in India: Many overseas Indians are seeing that their properties are illegally occupied and face threats to their safety when they visit India. Court cases go on for extended periods of time. IPC should be amended to tackle this menace.

Interactions between GOI agencies and Indian Australian community: It is often felt that GOI authorities in Australia do not interact with people sufficiently, thus leading to a communication gap. It is a common experience that there is a significant gap between what we expect and what is delivered. Steps should be implemented to improve the situation.

Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs visit to Australia: With approx. 500,000 people of Indian heritage in Australia, a biennial visit of Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs (The Hon Sushma Swaraj) or her deputy, The Hon Gen (Retd) V K Singh, should be included in the official GOI travel calendar. This will help facilitate interactions with the community and facilitate Overseas Indians’ investment in India.

Streamlined grievance redressal mechanism for Overseas Indians: Overseas Indian Affairs ministry has often not been very helpful and help has often not come in a timely fashion due to excessive bureaucratic influences. This should be reviewed and streamlined.

Exchanges between Academicians and civil Society leaders: We need regular bilateral exchange visits of academics, journalists, leaders and civil society leaders. This will help improve relations between the two countries. The scope and numbers should be increased.

This is our wish list, which we believe is doable, not difficult and will provide multiple benefits to various stake-holders, including India.

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/13th June, 2014

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This was originally published in Indian Sun News magazine, Sydney on 10th June, 2014.  http://www.theindiansun.com.au/top-story/indians-australia-expect-modi-govt/

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Recommendations to take Australia India relations to a new height! Australia India Institute [AII] does a fantastic job!

Australia India Institute [AII], based at University of Melbourne and led by Amitabh Mattooo, has released its report, The Australia-India Institute – Beyond the Lost Decade. recommending steps, which, if implemented by both Govts, will take Australia India relations to a new height.

Here is the link for Report: http://www.aii.unimelb.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Beyond-the-Lost-Decadeweb.pdf

Here are the recommendations from this report. See the Link above for the detailed report.

The Australian government should, in partnership with the States, education and corporate sectors and civil society institutions:

• Undertake as an act of goodwill to extend the visas of Indian students who were in Australia on February 8, 2010, and whose pathways towards permanent residency in Australia were affected by changes to immigration regulations in that year. Such extensions or issuance of alternative categories of visa should be granted for at least 12 months from December 31, 2012.

• Extend the post-study work entitlement currently enjoyed by international students at universities to all TAFE institutes and reputable private colleges offering vocational training.

• Initiate the training of adequate numbers of school teachers in the Hindi language in preparation for its introduction into the Australian Curriculum as soon as practicable. State and Federal education ministers should agree to specify areas of the curriculum in which Indian content must be taught, including Indian history, geography and culture. Re-establish language training for Australian diplomats posted to India.

• Expand the study of contemporary India at Australian universities by providing initial funding for twenty B-level university teaching/research positions for the next five years, after which the universities fund the positions.

• Seek talks with India on granting visa-on-arrival travel for Australians and developing a special category visa for young Australians wishing to work in India. Initiate talks on new visa categories that cut red tape for visits by leadership figures such as university vice-chancellors and deans, Supreme Court judges, holders of national awards such as the Padma Bhushan and Order of Australia.

• Encourage the nomination of more foreign nationals, including Indians, for the Order of Australia awards, and more vigorously publicise foreign recipients by announcing them on the same day as national award winners each year.

• Benchmark and fund scholarships for Australian university students to study in Asian nations to a maximum of one per 100 international students studying in Australia in any given year.

• Double the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s paltry public diplomacy budget of $5 million, with the additional funds earmarked to raising awareness in India of exemplary initiatives such as the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.

• Modernise Australia’s approach to international broadcasting, with Australia Network (TV) and Radio Australia taking on a larger role as content providers to Asian broadcasters. Australia Network to retain close links with DFAT but funding and editorial responsibility should rest with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

• Establish an Australia-India senior editors’ dialogue modelled on the Australia-Indonesia editors’ dialogue, with initial funding for four meetings, in New Delhi,

Sydney, Mumbai and Melbourne over a six-year period.

• Introduce an Australian education rating system for States that provide education services to international students, encouraging them to prevent and/or speedily

address problems that can damage Australia’s brand as an education provider by prioritising student safety, proper orientation, police liaison support, and the active

involvement of local ethnic communities as contact points for international students, including Indians.

• Invite representatives of regiments of Indian troops who fought at Gallipoli to be Australia’s guests at the 100th anniversary commemorations of the campaign in

2015, and invite expressions of interest from documentary film makers interested in producing feature films and documentaries about the shared experiences of Indian and Australian soldiers at Gallipoli.

• Establish a permanent naval attaché position in the Australian High Commission in New Delhi, in addition to the existing defence adviser position, which can continue to rotate between Army, Navy and Air Force personnel. Begin negotiations for joint training exercises between Indian and Australian Special Forces, as currently exist between India and the United States.

• Fund the Australia India Institute to develop an online ‘one-stop shop’ website providing reliable information on all aspects of trade, diplomatic, educational, people-to-people cultural relations.

• Increase support and funding of major travelling exhibitions on art, history, heritage and sport to and from Australia and India, including the Bowral-based International Cricket Hall of Fame’s effort to mount offshore exhibitions in India.

• Expand the growing range of Australia-India annual lectures, such as the Gandhi Oration and Crawford Lectures to all academic disciplines and civil society sectors, and name one such lecture in honour of the late esteemed India expert A.L. Basham.

• Encourage Australian political parties to pursue formal dialogues and party-to-party relationships between the main political parties in each country; increase interactions between Australian and Indian State and Federal parliamentarians via delegations, conferences and staff exchanges.

• Fund the Australian Institute of Criminology to undertake ongoing research into racism and crime, with an initial reference to inquire into the high profile incidents that impacted on relations with Indian in 2009-10.

•Fcilitate the entry of Australian Technical and Further Education Institutions to provide training in India and other countries on a not-for-profit basis.

• Offer India the use of Australian expertise in developing distance education and the virtual classroom.

• Create a web-based advertising campaign showcasing Indian students’ opinions on Australia as a place to study, live and work.

• Encourage Australian media organisations to revive regular staff exchanges with Indian media organisations.

• Enlist Tourism Australia to develop an India wedding package that will encourage Indian honeymooners to take their holidays here, and couples of any

background to wed in grand Indian style at selected locations across Australia, including the Outback.

The Taskforce also recommends that…

The Indian government should:

* Propose institutionalised regular Prime Ministerial visits between New Delhi and Canberra. Establish a young political leaders program between India and Australia.

* Establish a naval attaché position at the Indian high commission in Canberra and open an Indian consulate in Brisbane in recognition of India’s economic interests in Queensland.

* Expedite the proposed restructuring of the territorial divisions of the MEA and split the 26-nation Southern Division, hiving off part of its mandate to a newly constituted Indo-Pacific or Australasia Division that could include Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

* Explore potential for shared humanitarian assistance and technical capacity-building programs in third countries. Australia has an expansive humanitarian assistance and technical partnership program with several countries through AusAID. India’s new Development Partnership Administration (DPA) Division in the MEA seeks a similar institutional profile. They can combine and contribute financial, material or human resources for specific projects, perhaps for programs in less-developed states of the Commonwealth.

• Encourage the setting up of separate, track 2/track 1.5 taskforces and dialogues on Australia’s role in Indian energy and food security.

• Consider a policy of visa-on-arrival for citizens of Australia, which is currently available to citizens of New Zealand, among others.

• Encourage business associations such as the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and their member corporations to interact with their counterparts in Australia, and institute short-term work and exchange programs for young Australian and Indian professionals.

• Accepting that democracy is a common and cherished principle shared by both countries, encourage a track 2/track 1.5 taskforce dialogue on democratic capacity

building, to explore possibilities of providing institutional and technical cooperation, including human resource training, to newly emerging democracies in, for example, the Arab world.

• Encourage the Press Trust of India and Doordarshan to establish a stronger presence in Australia, with a more robust network of stringers or fully fledged correspondents.

I believe that both Governments should review them and implement the recommendations to improve the relations between Australia and India. Federal Govt should do the necessary things including approving the Uranium decision in the Cabinet.

Yadu Singh/Sydney/17th July 2012.

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Finally, Uranium trade with India has bipartisan support!

My article>>> Uranium-Bipartisan-article                                                                                                                             

 

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/8th Dec, 2011

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India’s Look East Policy:Australia is a perfect fit in it!

I was invited to write this article for the Journal from Foreign Policy Research Centre [FPRC], New Delhi. FPRC is a Think Tank on India’s Foreign Policy.

I have argued that Australia and India should develop the best of the best relations, and suggested how it can be achieved.

Link is here>>>  LEP.FPRC.Journal  See pages 200-206.

PS: Please note that ALP has passed a resolution in its national conference on Sunday, 4th Dec, 2011, reversing the ban on Uranium trade with India. Yadu Singh/6th Dec, 2011.

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/15th Nov, 2011

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Australian Uranium to India:Why Australia should sell it to India?

Last year, the then PM, Kevin Rudd and several ministers including the then Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard visited India. India is an important country for Australia on multiple counts. It is a rising global power which is also an important trading partner of Australia. Indian students’ issues aside, both countries enjoy friendly relations with one another. 

We, Indian Australians, have a keen interest in seeing good relations between these two countries.

Both countries must consider the interests of one another while doing business with one another. There are too many things which bind us together. These are our democracies, rule of law, multi-cultural societies, love of Cricket and memberships of the Commonwealth to name a few.

Previous Australian Gov led by PM John Howard did many things to move Australia and India closer. He declared that he would sell Uranium to India as India had impeccable records of nuclear non-proliferation. Other important step in this direction was a decision to initiate a quadrilateral strategic dialogue involving USA, Australia, India and Japan. Yet another was the naval exercises called Malabar exercises involving  Navies from India, USA, Australia, Japan and Singapore. After winning the Gov in 2007, Kevin Rudd led ALP Gov reversed the decision to sell Uranium to India and other steps too became non-operative from one or the other reason. Unhappy with Australia’s policies, India did not participate in Kakadu Naval exercises where even Pakistani Navy showed up.  Basically, Australia-India relations have moved backward since 2007. They moved back a few degrees more after the students’ issues last year. A serious work is required to rectify this situation.

Indian economy is growing and will keep growing for years to come. GFC [Global Financial Crisis] did not affect India as much as it did others. India is on a roll. The only thing which holds India down is the fact that it has a problem in regards to its energy supply. It needs more and more energy for its growth. It  needs as much energy as it can get its hands on. Indian economy’s growth is essential not only for India but it is also essential for the health of the world economy.

India has been exploring all sources of energy supply as its local supply is far shorter than what it needs. India has to import petroleum from the Arab countries and is debating about the gas supply from Iran. Iranian Gas is however problematic as it has to transit via Pakistani territory which is a problem in itself. Pakistani Govt authorities will never be able to guarantee a secure transit due to its weakness and the presence of the “non-state actors” there who are anti-India. In addition, India cannot rule out a war between India and Pakistan which will create problems in the transit of the gas.

India is therefore forced to explore the option of atomic energy. It has no choice. Thanks to the leadership of The Prime Minister, Mr ManMohan Singh and the then US President, Mr George Bush, India has an India-specific NSG [Nuclear Suppliers’ Group] exemption in 2009 which enabled it  to have bilateral nuclear energy deals with USA, Russia, France, Canada and some more countries. India needs a similar deal with Australia which will allow the Uranium sale to India. Australia has about 40% of world Uranium and sells it to China. NPT should not be an obstacle for Australia to sell Uranium to India after the NSG’s India specific exemption and with India’s impeccable record in nuclear non-proliferation. NSG exemption was a testimony to the fact that India has been a responsible country and has never been involved in nuclear proliferation, unlike others in our neighbourhood. Australia supported this exemption. NSG exemption permits nuclear trade by India without signing NPT.

We should remind ourselves about what the former Australian PM, Mr John Howard had said about such sale. He said that it would not be fair to sell Uranium to China and deny that to India. PM Howard was dead right.

When Kevin Rudd’s ALP Gov reversed Mr Howard’s decision, India was upset and disappointed. Indian Australians were upset too. People felt that it was an unfair decision. India had a difficulty to understand the logic behind this decision once India was given NSG exemption with an active support from Australia.  NPT issue is not relevant at all in regards to India as India has impeccable records in these matters. ALP’s policy, insisting on NPT signature by India, is wrong and ill-considered. Australian Foreign Minister Mr Stephen Smith’s press conference in New Delhi is worth going through. It is available through DFAT website. India has never been involved in nuclear proliferation unlike Pakistan and China. China is a NPT signatory but its record in these matters is not that great. Everybody knows the nexus between China and Pakistan. We should not forget how North Korea got its atomic bombs. Pakistan would not have supplied anything to North Korea without the consent of China. Manuals in Chinese language were found even in Lybia which tried to buy things from disgraced proliferators like AQ Khan of Pakistan.

Simply put, it makes no sense for Australian Uranium going to China but not to India. In fact, there is more justification for Uranium sale to India. It will be pragmatic and a smart move if ALP drops its objection to selling Uranium to a non-NPT signatory country like India because India has fault-free records in proliferation matters and this fact has been recognised by the world with the India specific NSG waiver.  ALP decision to not sell Uranium to India has been considered unfriendly by many quarters in India and Indian Australian community. It is a big stumbling block in good Australia-India relations.

I have urged the Australian PM and ALP to give India a “fair go” through emails and my Blog. I argued that it was what was expected from a friendly country. It is not fair to bind Australia with the NPT dogma and not see the whole issue in a realistic way. A friend has to see the problems of  his/her friends properly. Australia is a friend of India. It showed it by supporting the NSG exemption for India in Vienna last year. It shows it by supporting a permanent position for India in UNSC. It is about time that we see it once again by seeing Uranium trade between Australia and India. As we understand, it [ALP] would not have any political fallout from its decision to sell Uranium to India because the Coalition is already in favour of doing so. It should not be a problem to amend Atomic energy Act either, giving an India-specific exemption for Australian Uranium sale to India. I remain doubtful though whether ALP and specifically ALP Left will change its objection in this regard.

I urge my Australian Indian friends to lobby with their local MPs on this matter. We need to pool our energies in persuading the Australian Gov to sell Uranium to India.

Like Lowy Institute’s Rory Medcalf [Ex Australian High Commissioner to New delhi], I and thousands of my friends in Australia do believe strongly that Australia should sell Uranium to India. We find this refusal to sell Uranium to India  unfair and illogical. India needs new and cleaner sources of energy  and nuclear energy is at the top of its list. Nuclear energy will not only help India but it will help the whole world as it will reduce pollution and carbon emission.

A time has come when Australia sees the issues properly and does the right thing. That right thing is to sell Uranium to India.

PM Julia Gillard, if elected on 21st Aug, will get an opportunity to change this illogical policy and sell Uranium to India but will she do it is yet to be seen.

Tony Abbott, if he gets the mandate on 21st Aug, and his team including Julie Bishop, Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb have already reconfirmed their resolve to sell Uranium to India.

We want some significant movement for more meaningful and better Australia- India relations.

The question in our minds is whether ALP will do the right thing or whether it would be the coalition which will do it!

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/09-11-09 

singhyadu@gmail.com

www.twitter.com/dryadusingh