Date & Time: 19th of October, 2022
Venue: CPPR Conference Room
Chief Guest: Ms Sarah Kirlew, Australian Consul General to South India 

Proceedings Report

  • About the Event: On 19th October, 2022, CPPR hosted the Australian Consul General to South India, Ms Sarah Kirlew. The session covered India – Australia relations and focused on cooperation between India and Australia in the wide Indo-Pacific Region.
  • The Key Speakers: The distinguished speaker for the session was Hon. Sarah Kirlew who is the Consul General of Australia to South India. She completed her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Sydney and pursued masters in Public Policy and Management from the University of London. Before becoming the Consul General to South India, she worked for 17 years in the Australian department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. While working under the department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, she was posted into positions such as the director of Indo-Pacific and Geo Economics sections and the Director of ASEAN Regional Programmes Section in Canberra, Australia .

Summary of Discussions

Introduction : Cooperation between India and Australia 

  1. India and Australia are strong partners with a common vision for Free and Open Indo-Pacific. Both countries are members of QUAD and have bilateral, and trilateral ties as well. This session covered the cooperation between India and Australia at different levels while highlighting issues such as Maritime Security, Human security, Indian Diaspora in Australia and challenges faced in the Indo-Pacific.
  2. Dr Dhanuraj, Chairman of CPPR mentioned CPPR’s ongoing relation with the Australian Embassy and the Consulate. He mentioned the Indo-Pacific initiatives undertaken by CPPR in collaboration with Monash University and highlighted the people to people connect between both states as very robust. 
  3. The Australian Consul General expressed her pleasure to be at CPPR and reflected on the progress in relations between India and Australia. She highlighted the language that was used during the recent visit by Jaisanakar to Australia as interesting. She recalled the ministers stating India and Australia having a “strong and strategic partnership” and that the India – Australia relations in the Indo-Pacific are stable and prosperous. She also mentioned the bilateral and trilateral ties between India and Australia and the importance of working with the ASEAN community. 
  4. After a small introduction by Consul General, Sharon Koshy, Research Associate at CPPR mentioned the work CPPR does in the field of International Relations. Sharon mentioned that CPPR has partnerships with countries such as Japan, the US and France with focus on the Indo-Pacific region. Regarding the upcoming conference on the Bay of Bengal, Sharon stated that it will have international participation from five countries and it will host “wholesome interactions on a wide range of issues”.
  5. Ms Anu Maria Francis, Research Associate at CPPR talked about the AIIPOIP conference that was held by CPPR jointly with the Monash University in Australia on April 21st and 22nd and elaborated on the task force that was launched on 11th October 2022 which included people from various fields of expertise. 

Maritime Security and the Chinese Factor in Indo Pacific

Mr. KV Thomas, Senior Fellow at CPPR enquired about the CG’s world view on Maritime Security and the Chinese Factor in the Maritime Security programme of Australia. He said that the Australian governments in the past had stated that no serious conflict would happen in the Indo-Pacific due to Chinese factors and that Australia had shifted importance to the South West Pacific. In response to that question, the Consul General stated that Australia has a special focus in the South Pacific and that the South China sea is where Australia strives to take an active approach. She stated that Australia will take an active approach consistent with international law and will work forward to cooperate with ASEAN Countries and that there is a potential for clash as well. 

ODA loans by Australia 

In response to the follow up question asked by KV Thomas on cutting of ODA loans by Australia, the Consul General stated that the development projects have actually grown up to over 4.5 billion USD, and that there are special allocations being provided. 

Exploration and extraction of Minerals with Respect to Climate Change

Dr Dhanuraj brought up the issue regarding the usage of minerals by Australia and the importance of the issue in the climate change discourse in the global political community to which the Consul General stated that Australia believes the solution to climate change is technology.

Bilateral Arrangement in ‘Knowledge Sharing’

Dr Shakila T Shamsu, special advisor to CPPR enquired about bilateral arrangements in the field of education as well as relations with CPPR and other think tanks for cutting edge technology, training and facility. The Consul General replied that she is in favour of teaching and knowledge sharing partnerships, and added that a model she liked was the concept of Joint degree programmes.

Challenges India Faces

During the conversation, Consul General Sarah enquired about the “Major challenges India faces” to which, KV Thomas replied that Terrorism, cross border dryu trafficking were some of the major challenges. Dr Shelly John also added that India faces challenges in respect to protecting its territories. 

 India’s Position in the current political structure

Adding to the discussion, the assistant Consul General asked Dr Shelly Johny about India’s success and influence in the international political structure to which Dr Shelly, Senior Fellow at CPPR replied that India faces certain challenges and is trying to project a stronger image. He also added that in the current circumstances, situations are favourable with India’s multilateralism. Dr Harishankar, Research Fellow at CPPR also added that the FTAs of India are following the western template, and that a few countries including Australia are not happy with the decision. He also stated that one way to look at the issue is by reflecting how India is transforming itself.

Prominence of Internal Economy of a Country 

Dr Dhanuraj talked about how the international economy inevitably plays a major role for investors. Adding to the conversation, the Consul General stated that states which can provide interesting packages would play a significant role in facilitating ease of doing business. She enquired “what does the future look like for Kerala’s Economy which has a strong tourism sector but lacks industrial base”. Dr Shakila replied stating that there is a lot of initiative happening in Kerala. She also added that Kerala has an elevated position in the area of soft power. 

Fluctuation of PR Rules 

KV Thomas enquired about the fluctuation of PR rules in Australia resulting in students finding difficulty in getting jobs to which the Consul General replied that the PR rules hasn’t been fluctuating and that there might have been some disruption during the Covid time. 

As a final note, Dr Dhanuraj conveyed his thanks and expressed the interest in continuing the communications between CPPR and the Consulate. 

Key Takeaways

  1. The dialogue session sought to invoke interactive conversations about cooperation between India and Australia.
  2. India and Australia who share the Indian Ocean area, have a strong Indian Diaspora and a common interest in Cricket. 
  3. CPPR strives to achieve collaboration with Australia and this was manifested in the AIIPOIP Task Force for Indo-Pacific Economy, Security and Sustainability, the initiation of which was held on October 11, 2022 
  4. Both India and Australia share a common vision for Free and Open Indo-Pacific. The Consul General Ms. Sarah Kirlew reflected on the cooperation between India and Australia by highlighting the bilateral and multilateral ties between the two countries and mentioned the Malabar Exercise which are held between India and Australia.
  5. Australia and India can work better in the future for bilateral arrangement in terms of knowledge sharing, with think tanks playing a major role. There is a strong Indian Diaspora in Australia and collaboration in the field of education will provide a strong pathway for India – Australia Relations.
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