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Indian Ocean ‘strategy’: don’t make China nervous March 30, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Weigold, Auriol , comments closed

Auriol Weigold

To borrow from an earlier piece published here at the start of this year (8 Jan 2012), I cited President Obama’s Defence Strategy Review, (5 Jan 2012) in which it was stated that “we will of necessity rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific Region …”, and I take this as an element in raising Chinese concerns.

In his excellent piece  “Indian Ocean: don’t militarise the ‘great connector’”, (29 Mar 2012) Sandy Gordon set out the security dilemma in the Indian Ocean region, and argued against any proposals, whether Indian ‘commonalities’ with the US in terms of strategic outlook, or borne of the US-Australian alliance, that make China nervous.

India, he has argued, is in a strategic ‘box seat’ in the Indian Ocean. Another view is that Australia is also in a box seat in the Indo-Pacific region. As a middle power able, if it chooses to do so, to take an independent stance in its own national interest – including its long-term engagement with China that is much broader than trade – and on its relations in the Indian Ocean region, notably with India and the US. (more…)

Indian Ocean: don’t militarise the ‘great connector’ March 29, 2012

Posted by sandygordon in : Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

The Indian Ocean is Australia’s back yard – or at least if you live in the West.  It also plays a major role in transporting energy from the oil and gas-rich Persian Gulf to Australia’s principal trading partners, China and Japan.  With each passing year, these and other East Asian powers become more dependent on the free passage of oil over the Indian Ocean.

This makes China nervous.  India and China have an ambivalent relationship. On the one hand they have common interests based on growing trade and similar positions in the WTO and on climate change. But on the other, they have abiding suspicions over the longstanding border dispute and what India sees as Chinese meddling in its own back yard – South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.

USN Los Angeles class nuclear powered submarine


Australia–India relations and the economy of ideas March 14, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Maclean, Kama , comments closed

Kama Maclean

This article appeared in the most recent edition of the East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘Ideas from Indiaand on East Asia Forum 9 March 2012.

At the Sydney Cricket Ground on 5 January 2012, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard spoke confidently about the upswing in Australia–India relations – which had been strained since the violent attacks on Indian students in 2009 – citing cricket as the ‘common language’ of the relationship.

In the closing days of 2011, Gillard had also helped to remove an important irritant in the bilateral relationship as she championed and pushed through a change to Australian Labor Party policy, which had precluded the sale of uranium to India.

Despite these developments, there is an urgent need to reimagine the Australia–India relationship, emphasising mutual exchange and collaboration as the means of engagement. The economy of ideas – of education, and of research and development – hold enormous potential here.


India struggling January 31, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Stoddart, Brian , comments closed

Brian Stoddart

First published here on 28 January 2012

India’s test cricket defeat in Adelaide was arguably the very worst of the eight they have now lost in a row while playing away from home.  Melbourne was a poor effort, Sydney worse then Perth was always going to be hard.  Adelaide, though, is a batting track as the Australians demonstrated and as the Indians might have been expected to show.  They capitulated, though.  Their bowling attack was always going to struggle, and that was added to by the reluctance to bring in more spin.  The batsmen were woeful, even if in a terrible showing Sachin Tendulkar had a reasonable enough series given everyone else’s performance.

Predictably, the Indian media is now in full cry with former players of all types (and varying success rates themselves) calling for wholesale change.  As cricket writer and historian Boria Majumdar said in Melbourne before the series started, India takes this very seriously, and a 4-0 humbling will bring national wrath upon the team.  That is because the dominance of cricket has been a sort of avatar for India’s increasing awareness of its rising place more generally in the world.  Every country has used sport like this: New Zealand and rugby, Australia and cricket, Brazil and football are just some obvious examples.  It is always difficult to pin down the nexus between sport and national profile, but there is a sussurus of sentiment that gives people pride in a victory, sadness running to anger in a defeat, especially in a streak of the kind Indian cricket is now in.

There is a curiously stronger than normal analogy between the cricketers and India more generally that is worth contemplation.


“Containment” no longer in the lexicon January 8, 2012

Posted by auriolweigold in : India, Weigold, Auriol , comments closed

Auriol Weigold

President Obama’s Defence Strategy Review, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for the 21st Century Defence, published on 5 January 2012, states that “we will of necessity rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific region … This includes emphasising existing alliances and expanding cooperation to ‘ensure collective capability and capacity for securing common interests’”. Addressing China’s emergence as a regional power, the Review reports that both countries have a strong stake in regional peace and stability and an interest in establishing a cooperative relationship.  Nonetheless, the United States will continue to ensure access to, and an ability to operate across, the broader Indian Ocean region.

In an interview Australia’s Ambassador in Washington, Kim Beazley, said on 6 January, that the U.S. commitment is to access to vital waterways, “ … is a commitment to the global commons …  It is not a containment strategy”.  This makes all the more strange a statement attributed to Australian Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, however inaccurately reported by the Times of India on the 1 and 2 December 2011, that Australia, India and the United States may frame a tripartite security pact. Mr Rudd said that his message had been misrepresented.


Speculation swirls around Pakistan’s President Zardari December 8, 2011

Posted by sandygordon in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

President Zardari reportedly suffered a minor heart attack on December 6 and is now in Dubai.  The normally well informed STRATFOR reported that Zardari had been ‘incoherent’ in an earlier telephone conversation with President Obama.  According to the BBC, Zardari’s staff say the problem is minor and there is no question of his resigning.

There have, however, been a series of worrying developments in the Af-Pak region recently and it is quite possible either that it has all become too much for Zardari or that he has been given the nod to leave by the military.


Behind Gillard’s India uranium sale decision November 19, 2011

Posted by sandygordon in : Gordon, Sandy, India , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

This article first appeared in The Australian on 18 November. The Australian is no longer available on the internet except on subscription.

Julia Gillard would have been more politically comfortable had she left the issue of uranium sales to India rusting in the ‘parking lot’. The pressing questions is therefore: why now?

There are obviously a number of factors involved, but it is clearly no accident that her announcement was made on the eve of the visit of President Obama, who came to announce a new US engagement in Asia and an enhanced role for Australia.

The new US strategic thrust is mainly about the rise of China and relative decline of the US.  With bin Laden dead and after years of US ‘boots on the ground’ in the Middle East and South West Asia, Washington has concluded that its wars are now providing security for others such as China to ‘free ride’, while America pays a price it can ill afford in blood and treasure.  All this saps America’s capacity to play in the real game, which has now shifted to Asia.

Gillard and Obama at APEC – next stop for India?


CHOGM: our complex relationship with India November 1, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Gail Pearson

First published in The Conversation on 26 October 2011

India is one of Australia’s largest trading partners – and yet, our relationship at times appears hopelessly fraught. This week, Prime Minister Julia Gillard ruled out changing the government’s stance on uranium exports to India. This has been an increasingly contentious issue between the two countries as India seeks to further expand its nuclear-powered electricity to meet its growing energy needs. With the announcement that India will significantly ramp up its manufacturing sector to create 100 million jobs over 10 years, this pressure will only increase.

In August, India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unexpectedly withdrew from CHOGM, opting instead to send vice president Hamid Ansari. Media reporting of concerns of racism towards Indian students has also done little to perpetuate positive views from both countries.

Emerging economic power

There is a perception that the Australian government has been unable to establish an optimal relationship with India – as a diplomatic cable leaked to whistleblower website Wikileaks revealed in March. Yet, why this is the case isn’t exactly clear. Like Australia, India was relatively unscathed by the global financial crisis. It is the fourth-largest economy in the world by purchasing power parity and the 11th by GDP. While its rate of growth has recently slowed to 7.7% against a target of 9%, India’s Reserve Bank has raised rates yet again in a bid to combat inflation.

There are 55 Indians with assets over $1 billion on the Forbes Rich List – seven are in the top 100, two are in the top 10. By the end of last year, India was our seventh largest two-way trading partner (up from 10th in 2008) and our third largest export market. By contrast, the United Kingdom is our fifth largest trading partner. In return, Australia is India’s sixth largest trading partner.

At a diplomatic level, India continues lobby for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, while we are lobbying for one of the rotating seats. There is a Strategic Partnership between Australia and India and a Bilateral Investment Promotion Treaty between the two countries. We are negotiating a Free Trade Agreement. So there is potentially much in common. (more…)

The Indian prime minister’s empty chair October 31, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Weigold, Auriol , comments closed

Auriol Weigold

Indian and Australian media have trawled backwards and perhaps forwards, over the message to Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh’s decision announced in August, that he would not attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, taking place this last weekend in October.

Australian print media, notably the Financial Review on 28 October and The Weekend Australian, 29-30 October, have linked Manmohan Singh’s remarkable absence to Australia’s reversal of its agreement to sell uranium to India after Labor won the 2007 election.

Some Indian media were quick to correct that impression, pointing out that their Prime Minister has a heavy schedule of multilateral meetings in November (as has Julia Gillard) but also to indicate that Vice President Hamid Ansari who is in Perth in place of Manmohan Singh is expected to raise the issue of Australian uranium sales again.


India and Asia’s ‘concert of powers’ October 6, 2011

Posted by sandygordon in : Gordon, Sandy, India , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

The CIA has assessed that India is a ‘swing state’ in Asia. By that it means that how India, as a rising power, chooses to lock into existing security structures will have important implications for the Asian security order.

India’s emergence is especially important in the context of the rise of China and apparent relative decline of the US. This confronts Australia with stark choices between its economic imperative not to alienate China and its long-standing strategic reliance on the United States.

Leading Australian analysts such as Hugh White (Power Shift) and Coral Bell (Living with Giants) have advocated that China and India be inducted into a ‘concert of powers’ consisting of those two plus the other big powers – the US, Japan and Russia. They thus hope to mitigate the perturbations that might otherwise be associated with China’s rise.


Half of the ‘quadrilateral’ – Bush meets Abe, Camp David, 2007.