South Asia and Beyond

‘India Natural Leader In Region; We Have To Call Out Bullies Or It Will Get Worse’

NEW DELHI: Covid assistance to India “is a reflection of your friendship, status and influence in the world,” Barry O’Farrell, Australia’s High Commissioner to India and Ambassador to Bhutan says, adding, “on Sunday, one of our Australian Defence Force aircraft will be landing here in Delhi, with the delivery of another of the oxygen tanks that Tata Steel is donating to the cause here in India.”
Speaking on ‘The Gist‘ to StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi on “one of the cornerstones of the Australia-India strategic partnership,” the envoy says, “the defence relationship is going extremely well” especially “at a time of rising tensions in the region, at a time where territorial claims have been increasing, where cyber attacks have become more frequent, where what we call the liberal rules and norms that usually govern the world are also under assault.”

On the Quad, bilateral relationships and trilaterals between Australia, Japan and India and France, India and Australia, the High Commissioner says, “I think this is an example of Indian leadership. When I arrived here in India, in February last year, I had no idea what the word plurilateral meant,” adding, “We see India as the natural leader in the region. And we share what Prime Minister Modi, a year ago, described as a sacred duty to ensure that the Indo-Pacific region remains free, open and secure.” High Commissioner O’Farrell says, “in recent years, China has been more openly, aggressively challenging established international rules and norms in a way that concerns many countries including Australia. It concerns me that tensions on the Line of Actual Control escalated beyond the greater grey zone tactics we’ve seen before, leading regrettably to conflict and loss of life last year.” On China’s behaviour, he points out, “you’ve got to call out that bullying to stop it. If you don’t, it’s only going to get worse,” adding, “if you’ve got someone picking on you, and you’ve got more friends, they stop.”

On China’s repeated attempts at economic coercion of Australia, the envoy says, Canberra has responded to the pressure “with resilience and agility. We’ve redoubled our efforts to look for other markets.” But, he points out, “what you didn’t hear was that strategically, China continued to buy resources that supported some of its major industries. Coal and iron ore and even liquid natural gas exports have increased. So, they were pretty strategic about it, even if in a presentational sense, they were pretending to aggressively seek to punish Australia.”

Watch this interaction for more details and High Commissioner O’Farrell revealing what happens when India and Australia play on the cricket field and whom he supports in the World Test Championship Final!

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