Australia keen to strengthen ties with India in hi-tech area


New Delhi: Ahead of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s visit to India early next year and with Canberra keen to lessen its reliance on China in hi-tech sectors, a top Australian official said that India and Australia would be looking to further their cooperation in areas including cyber and critical technologies.

Australian Deputy High Commissioner Rod Hilton, in his address at the Chanakya Chakra forum on Foreign and security policies, said that 5G and 6G and quantum computing are priority areas for both sides.

He outlined four key areas of cooperation, including ‘An open, inclusive and rules-based maritime order’; ‘Cyber and critical technologies’; ‘Responding to the threat of terrorism’ and ‘Promoting connectivity across the Indo-Pacific’.

Terming India a “natural partner” for Australia, Hilton said New Delhi’s “growing and strategic heft is being felt beyond the Indian Ocean, creating new opportunities for our cooperation based on shared values and outlook”.

He said Australia sees India as having a role to play in shaping the regional trading order prompting the benefit of free and open trade and improving economic governance in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

“The convergence in our strategic outlooks has also underpinned a deepening of our defence and security ties.”

He said the third iteration of the bilateral naval exercise, AUSINDEX, held in April this year represented the largest-ever Australian defence deployment to India.

“The exercise builds on a fourfold increase in our defence engagement from 11 defence exercises, meetings and activities in 2014 to 38 in 2018,” he said.

Hilton said that one in 50 Australians today (two per cent of the population) were born in India. Currently there are over 109,000 Indian students in Australia; and over 360,000 tourists visited Australia from India last year, comprising the fastest growing group of foreign visitors to Australia.

On economic relationship, he said Australia’s India Economic Strategy has put forward a goal to see India become a top three trading partner for Australia by 2035, and India has commissioned an Australian Economic strategy to be released soon.

On cooperation on cyber and critical technologies, he said the two countries have a shared view that emerging and critical technologies will shape the security and prosperity of their citizens.

“As we both examine the coming challenges and opportunities from disruptive technologies, we should work together. We want to see a global technology market place that is open and resilient. And we want to ensure our democratic values and citizen-centred approach to technology standards and ethics remains core to next generation technological advances.

“Harnessing the potential but also protecting our citizens when it comes to artificial Intelligence, machine learning, 5G and 6G and quantum computing are priorities for both Australia and India. As is collaborating in these fields so that the norms, rules and standards that shape the global technology eco-system reflect our shared values,” Hilton added.

According to The Australian, plans are under way for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to use his India visit in January to seek deals with New Delhi for co-operation on critical technologies and minerals, in a bid to counter Chinese dominance in hi-tech sectors.

“Tech partnerships will be high on the Prime Minister’s agenda when he sits down with counterpart Narendra Modi, with a proposal to use Australia’s expertise and India’s scale to develop artificial intelligence, quantum computing and ‘internet of things’ technologies.

“By working with India, Australia hopes to lessen its reliance on Chinese technology, and contribute to an alternative set of standards that will prevent Beijing from setting the ground rules in key technologies,” it said.

Australia is also keen on supporting India to develop a domestic critical minerals processing industry, which would provide Western nations with an alternative to sourcing the materials from China, it said.