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India, not China, is Australia’s real partner of the 21st century, says former Australian PM Tony Abbot

Former prime minister of Australia Tony Abbott is building bridges between India and Australia (Photo: IANS)

An editorial written by former prime minister of Australia Tony Abbott is making waves. Written for the newspaper, The Australian, and titled, 'India the sensible substitute for belligerent Beijing', the article is as much an applause for India as it is a disapproval of China's dishonest tactics.

Abbott is currently the Australian PM's Special Trade Envoy and was on a visit to India where he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discussed ways to strengthen trade and economic cooperation between the two countries.

On India and its position on the world map
In his opinion piece, Abbott said: "The world’s “emerging democratic superpower” is how I habitually described India as PM. With the world’s other emerging superpower becoming more belligerent almost by the day, it’s in everyone’s interests that India take its rightful place among the nations as quickly as possible".

Abbott's view of India is one which is cited by many other experts—a reluctant democracy held back by its glorious imperfections and lack of confidence. A question a billion Indians ask every day on what is holding the country back.

The growth of China
Highlighting an important element in China's rise—a salient feature which many tend to overlook or ignore—he points out that "China’s daunting power is a consequence of the free world’s decision to invite a communist dictatorship into global trading networks. Back then, the assumption was that rising prosperity and more economic freedom would lead, eventually, to political liberalisation too".

He laments that Beijing has been unfair in its dealing with the Western countries who have contributed to its massive growth and helped it bring "moderate prosperity" to its people. In his opinion for The Australian, he alludes that with the changing realities in global geo-politics, India is on the cusp of taking the same position that China has enjoyed for decades.

Abbott says that China has exploited the West's goodwill and wishful thinking to steal its technology and undercut its industries, an underlying sentiment now spoken about openly, which has unsheathed the realities of the communist regime. He adds that it has now become a much more powerful competitor than the old Soviet Union ever was, because Beijing developed "a military to match" and is spoiling for a fight over Taiwan, a democracy of 25 million.

India and Australia relations
Complimenting Modi for strengthening relations with Australia soon after becoming the Prime Minister, Abbott says that the four nations through the annual Malabar naval exercises, will display "an impressive show of strength, demonstrating the democracies’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific".

Underlining better relations between the two nations, he says that India is currently its seventh-biggest trade partner with annual trade of about $30 billion which is hampered by tariffs and mutual perceptions that neither country is always a good place to do business. The two nations are now pushing their negotiating teams to carve out an "early harvest" trade agreement, if possible, by the end of the year, towards creating a deeper partnership.

Here he points that a trade deal between the two countries would benefit both and bring long-term prosperity to the two countries. Abbott says that this would also be an important signal if the world shifts away from China as it would mean vesting that position with India – a democratic country.

India-Australia contemporary partnership
The two countries had elevated their bilateral relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership at the Prime Ministerial virtual summit held last year on June 4, 2020. With China violating India's territorial sovereignty and presenting a fuzzy picture about a clearly demarcated border, the relations between the two Asian giants have only nosedived. 


Australia is facing a similar situation in its dealings with China, where it has been a victim of Beijing's trade war, through which the latter has imposed unfair trade sanctions on the imports from Australia. Now Canberra has been scouting new markets for its farm and mineral produce.

Abbott has, made a strong case before the world. He also has given a substantial push to the agenda Modi and Morrison had committed to at their virtual meeting. The question that Indians should be asking is if the world is eager to provide them with opportunities, is India ready to grab those and propel the country further.