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India is in the camp of democracies against autocracies: Ex-Australia PM

WorldIndia is in the camp of democracies against autocracies: Ex-Australia PM

Quad is the most important strategic development in the world since the creation of NATO, says former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

New Delhi: Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott loves India and takes special pride in the country’s rising global stature, as telescoped in India’s G20 presidency. In this wide-ranging conversation, he says India’s G20 presidency will be welcomed universally and will help the country in advancing its unique initiatives like global skill mapping and give a voice to the Global South. Hailing the recent visit of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to India as a high moment in India-Australia relations, Mr Abbott describes the Quad as the “most important strategic development in the world since the creation of NATO.” PM Modi is expected to travel to Sydney to attend the next Quad summit, likely to take place in May.
Q: What are your views about India’s G20 presidency? What are the major issues on which Australia would be proactively supporting India?
As a former G20 President, the important thing about the G20 is to keep people talking about things where they have got more in common. When it comes to what the countries of the G20 have in common, we want better shared economic growth and better environments; we want to see orderly migration and so on.
So, what we’ll get from India as G20 President, is just a fundamental sense of decency. Firstly, because Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a fundamentally decent man. Second, because India historically has been very benign. India dominates the subcontinent by the virtue of its size. But for such a large country, it has been remarkably benign in its foreign policy since 1947. While India today is economically and militarily stronger, and has grown in self-confidence, it certainly hasn’t lost those extremely benign policies that it takes to the wider world. India’s G20 presidency is something that will be universally welcomed.
Q: India is looking to bring the voice of the Global South in the G20 agenda. How do you look at this? Is India trying to pitch as the leader of the Global South? What is Australia’s response?
I’m not someone who wants to further divide the world. The world is divided already, particularly with China’s grab for global dominance. At the moment, the world is highly divided between democracies and autocracies. And one of the encouraging developments is India moving away from that strategic detachment from the problems of the wider world. And India has moved away, particularly under Modi, from non-alignment.
India’s membership in the Quad places it in the camp of the democracies against the autocracies. I wouldn’t want to distract India from that important leadership role that it’s got by getting too deeply into this Global South business.
Q: Another important unique initiative that India’s putting on the table is global skill mapping. How do you look at the role of G20 in advancing the process?
Global skill mapping is quite an interesting concept. In fact, India is a powerhouse of skills. It has been for a long time, but it is particularly true today. India has got very well-recognised universities and research centres. Indian people, both here and abroad, are remarkably successful in a wide range of professional and technical capacities. So, I think that’s a good idea.
Also, the most important skill is here—the willingness to make the most of your opportunities, abandoning any sense of victimhood and making the most of all of your possibilities.
Q: During the latest meeting of G20 foreign ministers, there was a discussion on terrorism. How can Australia and India strengthen cooperation in counter-terrorism?
It’s great that India and Australia are cooperating closely on defence and security issues. India is one of the countries that has been particularly exposed to Islamist terror. And much as we’re focused at the moment on the Ukraine war, and the potential Beijing aggression in the Taiwan Straits, Islamist terrorism hasn’t gone away. Iran is developing nuclear weapons at breakneck speed. And we shouldn’t assume that the problems of the Middle East are all behind us. India has quite a lot to teach us in terms of deradicalisationprogrammes. I hope that we can learn from the Indian experience.
Q: Looking ahead, how can India and Australia further strengthen their bilateral relationship?
As far as most people in Australia are concerned, there are no real problems in the relationship. The challenge is to build on its natural underlying strengths. For a long time, the relationship between India and Australia was underdeveloped. Over the last few years, a lot of effort, from me, from India’s Prime Minister Modi, Australia’s former Prime Minister Scott Morrison and now from Prime Minister Albanese, a lot of effort has gone into strengthening it. And I just think that really the sky’s the limit when it comes to Australia and India.
Q: Australia is going to be hosting the Quad summit this summer. What are Australia’s major priorities vis-à-vis the Quad summit?
The Quad looked incredibly important. It is the most important strategic development in the world since the creation of NATO. And the Quad is almost uniquely a product of the great work of Shinzo Abe in having the original idea and Narendra Modi in responding so generously to him. I don’t believe it would have been possible for Modi to respond as he did, except to a fellow Asian. I don’t believe any other Indian leader would have responded to Abe as strongly as he did.
Q: What are some of the major issues that Australia will emphasise at the Quad Summit?
The Quad is not against anyone. The Quad is for a liberal democratic order. But obviously, there is one country which is extremely exercised by the Quad and that’s China. China is bullying all its neighbours and it’s threatening the most grotesque aggression across the Taiwan Straits and I dare say that will be discussed by the Quad.
Manish Chand is CEO, Centre for Global Insights India, a think tank focused on global affairs and India Writes Network.

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