NEW DELHI: Australia does not support the Quad becoming a Nato-style military alliance! That’s the word from Barry O’Farrell, Australia’s high commissioner to India. In a wide ranging and exclusive conversation with StratNews Global’s Parul Chandra, he gave reasons why his government felt that way. He also offered an insight into why the Australian authorities have been circumspect about not criticising China for the coronavirus while also demanding an independent probe into the origins of the pandemic.
He indicated strong backing for India in its on-going face-off with China on the Line of Actual Control. Opposing any unilateral action, O’Farrell said his government appreciated attempts by India to de-escalate. He expressed satisfaction with Australia’s participation in the Malabar Exercise for the first time. It happened after India issued a formal invitation. As for future participation in this exercise, he said it was a decision to be taken by other partners and that Australia would be pleased to continue with its involvement.
O’ Farrell also answered questions about why no uranium sales to India had taken place even though both countries signed an agreement to that effect five years ago. Australia has some of the world’s largest reserves of uranium and it took considerable persuasion and diplomatic sweat by India before Canberra agreed to sign on the dotted line.
O’Farrell is a political appointee, having served as premier (chief minister) of New South Wales state. In that sense, he brings with him a wealth of political experience and seems to enjoy the trust of Prime Minister Scott Morrison. It may also give him considerable flexibility in handling his assignment, an advantage career diplomats rarely enjoy.