India-Australia Current Affairs

Cabinet approves signing of India-Australia MoU for Secondment Programme

The Union Cabinet approved signing of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) for Secondment Programme between India and Australia.

The MoU will be signed between Department of Economic Affairs (DEA)-Indian Economic Service Cadre and The Treasury, Government of Australia for period of three months.

Key Facts

Under the Secondment Programme, one officer from Australian Treasury will be seconded to DEA, Ministry of Finance and one officer from IES (at Deputy Secretary/Director level) nominated by IES Cadre, DEA will be seconded to Australian Treasury, Government of Australia, for period of three months.

The validity of both MoUs will terminate at end of the three months’ period of assignment and will not be extendable. The programme may be repeated in subsequent years with mutual consultation and after agreement on both sides.

Significance

Australia is one of the important bilateral partners of India. The proposed Secondment Programme will help to deepen understanding of current economic policy issues in both countries. It will also help to explore further opportunities for future collaboration and engagement. It will also provide the seconded officers with valuable and unique development opportunities and also provide exposure on global best practices.

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First 2+2 dialogue between India, Australia calls for open Asia-Pacific

India and Australia held their first ‘2+2 dialogue’ in New Delhi and highlighted need to maintain Asia-Pacific region as a “free” and “open” zone. The 2+2 dialogue model between both countries included foreign and defence secretaries.

India and Australia share warm bilateral relations based on shared democratic values and pluralism. There is a growing convergence of strategic perspectives between the two countries.

Key Facts

It was first meeting of this level since the two sides participated in quadrilateral discussion between India, United States, Australia and Japan in Manila in November 2017 for new strategic partnership targeting the Asia-Pacific region. In the 2+2 dialogue, all aspects of bilateral relations with focus on strategic and defence relations between two countries were reviewed.

Both countries agreed that free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large. The dialogue indicated that focus remains on freedom of navigation in South China Sea, where China has been reclaiming land for infrastructure, boosting its maritime influence.

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First Meeting of India-Australia Joint Steering Committee held in New Delhi

The First Meeting of India-Australia Joint Steering Committee (JSC) was held in New Delhi. The delegations for the meeting was led by TVSN Prasad, Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Home Affairs andStephen Bouwhuis, First Assistant Secretary, International and Auscheck Division, Criminal Justice Group, Attorney-General’s Department.

Key Facts

During JSC meeting both countries discussed scope for cooperation in counter-terrorism and checking extremism and radicalization besides steps to check illegal financial transactions and counterfeiting and cybercrimes.

They also discussed issues related to human trafficking and people smuggling, combating illegal drug trafficking and sharing information between law enforcement agencies were also discussed. They also agreed to pursue further agenda for cooperation in specific areas with meetings of operational Joint Working Groups (JWGs) involving concerned agencies.

Background

The first JSC meeting was follow-up to Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime signed between both countries during visit of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to India in April 2017.

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Indian Warships reach Australia to take part in Bilateral Maritime Exercise AUSINDEX-17

Indian warships have reached Australia’s port city of Freemantle to take part in a week-long naval exercise off the Western Australian coast.

Salient Highlights

Exercise Australia-India (AUSINDEX) was first conducted off the East Coast of India in September 2015. AUSINDEX-17 will be the second overall bilateral drill between Indian Navy and Royal Australian Navy.

AUSINDEX bilateral exercise aims to enhance interoperability and professional interaction between two navies.

Politically, the joint exercise assumes significance as India is yet to take a final decision to accommodate Australia’s request to participate in the Indian-led Malabar naval exercise this year. Malabar naval exercise involves the navies of India, Japan, and the United States.

Indian warships INS Kamorta, the INS Shivalik (first stealth warship built in India), and oiler INS Jyoti, will take part in the exercise.

Australian warships which will take part in the exercise includes missile frigate HMAS Newcastle; diesel-electric submarine HMAS Waller; special operations unit, Clearance Diving Team Four; and P3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force.

The exercise will be held between June 17 and 19.

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Australia abolishes 457 Visa Programme largely used by Indians

Australia has abolished the 457 Visa Programme used by thousands of temporary foreign workers, a majority of them Indians to address growing unemployment in that country. Instead, Australia wants to adopt ‘Australians first’ approach to skilled migration.

Since access to the skills is important for the growth and investment of that country’s businesses, it intends to replace the 457 visa programme by another visa programme, with new restrictions. The new temporary visa will be designed in such a way it will help in recruiting the best and brightest to fill critical skill gaps in the interest of that nation. The new visa will ensure that foreign workers are not brought into Australia just because it is easy for the employers to recruit a foreign worker than go to the trouble of hiring an Australian.

There are about 95,757 workers in Australia on primary 457 visa programme. Worryingly, the majority of the visa holders are from India followed by the UK and China. This announcement has come days after Prime Minister Turnbull visited India where a range of issues, including national security, counter-terrorism, education and energy, were discussed. Totally, six agreements were signed during his visit.

457 Visa

The 457 visa allows Australian employers to employ foreign workers for a period up to four years in skilled jobs where there is a shortage of Australian workers. The visa holders are eligible to bring family members, who have unrestricted work and study rights in Australia. The visa was introduced during the tenure of Prime Minister John Howard in 1996.

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India, Australia sign six agreements

India and Australia have singed six agreements in various fields such as terrorism, sports, health, environment, aviation sector to boost bilateral cooperation.

These agreements were signed in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his visiting Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull after delegation level talks.

Signed MoUs are
  • MoU on Cooperation in Sports.
  • MoU on Cooperation in the field of Health and Medicine.
  • MoU on Cooperation in the field of Environment, Climate and Wildlife.
  • MoU for Promotion and Development of Cooperation in Civil Aviation Security
  • MoU on Cooperation in Combatting International Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime.
  • Implementation arrangement between ISRO and Geoscience Australia on Cooperation in Earth Observation and Satellite Navigation.
Highlights of delegation level talks
  • Both countries sought to provide a boost to trade and security ties including counterterrorism cooperation.
  • Trade deal: Both countries could not conclude negotiations for Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) which they have been negotiating.
  • Uranium Supply: Australia held that ready to supply uranium to India as soon as possible. Both countries had signed civil nuclear cooperation in 2013 but actual supply has not yet commenced due to absence of any commercial contract.
  • NSG membership: Australia will spport for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and also for Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement, the two export control regimes.
  • Maritime security: Both countries agreed share common interests in ensuring maritime security and the safety of sea lines of communication.
  • They also recognised importance of freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, resolving maritime disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS.
  • Defence: Both countries agreed to remain strongly committed to the breadth of their defence ties and recalled the Special Forces Bilateral Exercise conducted in October 2016.
  • They agreed that the bilateral maritime exercise first held in the Bay of Bengal in 2015 will be repeated off Western Australia in the first half of 2018. They took decision for first bilateral Army-to-Army exercise to take place in 2018.
  • They also agreed to look forward to the inaugural secretaries’ defence and foreign affairs dialogue in the ‘2+2’ format as a new mechanism to build on the deep strategic partnership.

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