South Asia and Beyond

“India-Australia PM Summit Signaled Joint China Surveillance, Trade Only One Part Of Canvas”

NEW DELHI: An excerpt from ‘Talking Point‘, with Amitabh Mattoo, Professor, CIPOD, SIS, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Honorary Professor, University of Melbourne, Founding Director, Australia India Institute, Ex-Member of India’s National Security Advisory Board and Natasha Jha Bhaskar, General Manager, Newland Global Group in discussion with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi.


AM: Just to take a little breather from the trade deal, because I know that you will be keenly observing this. The virtual summit that took place on the 21st of March, actually also signaled the possibilities of real time intelligence operations, including, as reported in the Australian press, that the Indian Poseidons(P-8I)could be used for surveillance in various parts of interest where the Chinese have a presence. So really, trade is only a part of a canvas that is being gradually painted. One shouldn’t miss the trees for the woods. Look at this huge landscape that’s being painted and the trade will get more colour, will get more energy once it starts moving. Because there is momentum. Business to business has a momentum of its own. It’s the third ‘B’ which often creates problems, those are the bureaucrats. Once you take away the bureaucrats and let the businesses work together, you will see this relationship, economic relationship grow. Unlike the defence relationship, which has to be driven by the armed forces, by the security sector. So, it’s not just the business relationship, it’s the security relationship, political relationship, the soft power relationship. Is there a single substantive global issue other than the Ukraine issue right now, on which India and Australia think dramatically differently? I can’t think of a single one. I keep quizzing myself. I say, is there a thing that you can say really separates us so dramatically? There’s nothing. It’s complete. There’s complementarity of weltanschauungs, of worldviews? It’s a little India in the Indian Ocean.

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APR: Since you brought up the Poseidons(P-8Is), Professor, Meghdoot Bakhale asks, are there any possibilities of India joining the AUKUS hypersonic missile deal as the U.S. has shown its intentions to lower India’s dependency on Russian defence equipment?

AM: All this is often talked about. One way for India to slow down its relationship of dependence with the Russians is for the Americans to actually walk the talk. If the Americans are ready to walk the talk in terms of access to technology, especially dual use technology and the latest in defence equipment. I can’t see any reason why one would depend on the Russians. It’s just that the Russians have been reliable, dependable suppliers of Armed Forces’ equipment and continue to be one despite the fact that their equipment is often aging, not the latest. But, they’re kind of an old shop that you go to because you know the father, you know the son, you know they’ll give you a discount and you got used to that. And you’re not used to the new glitzy mall, which may offer you better goods. America has to actually demonstrate. If it does, I’m sure that will be the way out. In fact, it should be the way out for the future. Frankly speaking, the way Putin and Russia is going, there are lots of question marks in everyone’s mind, even those who’ve grown up as Russophiles through much of the Cold War.