Australia shares highest relationship with India: APFGI chair Julian Leeser

Australian MP Julian Leeser has said that his country shares "highest" relationship with India and the ties are "vital to both countries".

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Australia shares highest relationship with India: APFGI chair Julian Leeser
Australian MP Julian Leeser (Photo: Julain Leeser Facebook)

The chair of Australian Parliamentary Friendship Group of India, Australian MP Julian Leeser has said that his country shares "highest" relationship with India and the ties are "vital to both countries".

Speaking to WION’s Principal Diplomatic Correspondent, Sidhant Sibal from Australia, MP Lesser said," future of Indo pacific region, the importance of our two countries--should not be understated and it’s something that benefits both countries and the whole world". He also called for the similar group on India and Australia in India's lower house--Lok Sabha.

Question: How do you Characterise the relationship?

Julian Leeser: I think the India Australia relationship is absolutely vital to both countries. Our countries are doing more together and under PM Modi and PM Scott Morrison, given the Geostrategic position that we find ourselves in today, both countries have recognised that this is the moment to consummate the marriage. So the recent virtual summit that occurred, which happened because both PMs were originally supposed to meet in January but because of our bush fires that meeting was delayed, then another meeting was to happen but COVID made it impossible. So we had virtual leaders summit. The relationship is now one of the highest relationships, Australia has--comprehensive strategic partnership and means the relationship has a number of legs to stand on. Its got a diplomatic leg, its got a defence and security leg-- those relationships are particularly important and it has an economic leg which Prime ministers agreed to need much more work. I think the future of Indo pacific region, the importance of our 2 countries--should not be understated and its something that benefits both countries and the whole world.

Question: How do you see Quad as India and Australia are both part of it...should leaders of Quad meet?

Julian Leeser: The quad had great potential, both Australia and India have separate relationships with other countries but quad brings all 4 nations together to discuss and to work together on the issue. It is a healthy thing. You have already seen a whole range of things in which relationship is being stepped up. India has sent Gitesh Sarma, a senior diplomat indicates you taking the relationship seriously, although we have good high commissioners from India. Fact that we have sent to India Barry O Farrell, first former Parliamentarian to serve as envoy indicates we are taking the relationship seriously. We don't send former Parliamentarian to places, not of the highest importance. Former Parliamentarian serving in Japan, UK, US. More than just at that symbolic--diplomatic level, it is the defence relationship. The mutual assistance arrangements that have been put in place, Australia and India are close to each other in defence and logistics matters. We are doing exercises with each other. Both PMs Say it’s the economic aspect that things need to look into. India is a technology superpower, Australia is a critical mineral superpower. Given the environment, it requires both of our countries to work much more closely in the development of technology and the use of technology for mutual benefits of both our countries.

Question: How do you Chinese aggressiveness a work for both the countries?

Julian Leeser: I think Australia and India share a set of value in our region that is welcomed by people of the region. People like the peaceful and prosperous region where development occurs not by trying people under unsustainable debt people can’t repay, development occurs that meets the common good of all. We both believe in the importance of freedom of navigation and India has been a leader in terms of the importance of navigation and maritime policy. China has different geostrategic interest to both India and Australia and I think what we need to do with other like-minded countries to ensure there is a level of strategic competition in our region that is underpinned by values we share and those are the values of democracies and rule of law. India celebrates its independence day, you are the world's largest democracy, Australia is the world' 6th oldest continues democracy. Why is that important, because ultimately the decision made by our leaders are subject to the will of our people. Leaders can’t suddenly make decisions. That limits the range of decisions they can make. Leaders need to operate within the frame of law, courts can strike down decisions, which is a really important feature of democratic decision making.

Question: How do you see middle powers like India and Australia working together?

Julian Leeser: Middle powers like Australia and India will have to do more of the heavy lifting themselves both in a diplomatic and strategic sense. I think, gone is the times we can have great and powerful friends. History of our strategic relations, that we always had world's geostrategic power--the UK and then the US. India has much more complex relation than Australia and would like to have in future because of the borders and size of India. There are more diplomats in Delhi than any other place in the world, even more than New York. There are more defence attaches in Delhi than anywhere in the world. India and Australia have a great opportunity to work together. We can have leadership in areas of mutual interest and the most important thing is peaceful and prosperous Indo pacific that is governed by rule of law and might is not right and nations which are developing and nations developing in accordance to principles.

Question: How can Parliamentary Friends of India, Australia. Further the ties?

Julian Leeser: One of the things in the communique, they want to see the greater connection in parliament. When I was in Delhi in the beginning of the year, there is not reciprocal group--parliamentary group in Lok sabha and I want to encourage that. I have mentioned to your high commissioner and when travel permits again, Australian parliaments can come to India, unlikely in medium-term because of COVID, and when international travel this is something we like to do. India is one of the most imp countries for Australia and that is reflected in the diversity of members who are involved in the parliamentary group and significant diaspora in their constituency--like myself and many who have no Indian diaspora but have a real interest in India and 3rd group who believe in the strategic importance of India to Australia and to our future position and its very broad bipartisan group of people.

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