2023 will be the year of India and of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose quest for the ‘vishwa guru’ status will see him hobnobbing with world leaders throughout the year leading up to the 2024 Lok Sabha election.
And Australia will be a key country in this quest.
Hectic diplomatic exercises have begun as the Modi government sets about meeting the heads of the UK, Germany, France and Italy—besides US, Russia and China.
Modi’s ‘vishwa guru’ aim
Post the G-20 Summit in Bali this November, India will kick things off by assuming the presidency of the 20-nation group for a year beginning 1 December. This will be followed by India hosting the 2023 Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit as the organisation’s chairman, which it acquired from Uzbekistan this month.
PM Modi will be looking to convert these summits into a major political opportunity and project India as a ‘vishwa guru’ to his voters.
For the G-20 summit in 2023, India is expecting a visit by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. In return, PM Modi is expected to go on his second visit to Australia in February 2023 for the Quad meeting. Preparations are underway at both diplomatic and political levels for both visits.
External Affairs Minister S. JaIshankar is scheduled to visit Melbourne and Sydney in mid-October to discuss G20 with PM Albanese and again visit the country in February 2023 for the Quad summit. His visit will help both Indian and Australian governments to understand the approach of Labour government policies towards India.
A basic structure of dialogue is being prepared between the two sides at various levels, to ensure that PM Albanese’s high-level interactions with PM Modi are successful.
Multi-level delegations led by Piyush Goyal, Pralhad Joshi, Dharmendra Pradhan visited Australia in recent months after the Albanese government assumed office. It was a quiet political decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security to woo the Labour Party in Australia. The ground reality is that the CCS’ decision is certainly yielding fruits. Australia needs Indian Investments and skilled youth power to turn the country away from Chinese influence.
If things go well, there is also a possibility that the Australia PM might address the Joint Session of both Houses of Indian Parliament at the newly constructed Parliament building.
PM Anthony’s visit will add impetus to the ongoing trade and security-level alertness, giving utmost priority to education, health and cyber security threats.
Also read: Collapse of the ‘vishwa guru’ in 60 days
Weaning Australia away from China
In the past eight years, PM Modi has earned a lot of goodwill from world leaders. But as democracies mature, the dynamics of relationships undergo a change. For that matter, the smoothness with which Modi and former Australian PM Scot Morrison developed close ties will be used to boost the relationship with the new government headed by Albanese.
Both countries will adopt a neutral policy on the developments in the UK with Liz Truss assuming office, on the Russia-Ukraine War, and on the sudden spurt of Chinese spy ships in Colombo. This is a threat from China to both India and Australia. Does China seek to neutralise the Quad initiative? There are massive issues for Anthony and Modi that they need to address and both countries are working on setting up internal as well as external measures.
On the security front, India must urge Australia not to allow their soil for anti-India Khalistani separatists. This will be in Australia’s interest as well. A proper understanding will have to be built through mutual trusts. In the first meeting of Quad after Albanese assumed office, the PM created a conducive atmosphere. This will be taken forward in the coming months.
All this will happen, clearly, with the 2024 Lok Sabha election in mind. The future political dynamics will depend on whether Modi does a hat-trick or a new set-up assumes office in India.