New Delhi, Nov 14 : Speaking of an “increasing pressure” on the global rules-based order, Australian envoy Harinder Sidhu on Tuesday criticised China’s actions in the south China sea, saying they have been “confronting the rules we have lived by for decades”.
Delivering the Alfred Deakin Lecture here, Australia’s High Commissioner to India Sidhu said the economic success that presents opportunities for growth and prosperity also translates into larger strategic investments like large military budgets.
“By 2020, the combined military budgets in our region are forecast to exceed $600 billion,” she said.
“This year, China established its first overseas military base in Djibouti. It is expected to build at least 30 new submarines and an additional aircraft carrier… India has been the world’s largest arms importer over the last five years,” said Sidhu.
Asserting that such developments can generate uncertainty, anxiety and a risk of miscalculation, she said: “This is why Australia and India are such champions of the international rules-based order.”
Such order comes from a shared values of freedom, liberty and a respect for the sovereign equality of all states — whether big or small, she said.
Stressing that such understanding and respect for the international principles has allowed “countries like ours” to pursue their national interest while managing rivalries, the envoy said that enduring this international order is a shared interest of India and Australia.
“However, it is coming under increasing pressure. For instance, China’s actions in the South China Sea are confronting the rules we have lived by for decades,” Sidhu said
She pointed out that North Korea’s continued missile testing is raising risks to stability in the region.
“A narrow conception of national interests is driving a more transactional approach to negotiations and an inclination toward unilateral action.”
On the trade ties at bilateral level, the High Commissioner said: “We remain committed to Free Trade Agreements including to concluding a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with India.”
“Beyond the CECA, we need to look at all the ways that our two countries can build our economic relationship for the future. Prime Minister (Malcolm) Turnbull has commissioned the development of an India Economic Strategy,” she said.
The lecture also included several other important points, including climate change and women’s rights.
“India and Australia share a commitment to advancing gender equality in all aspects of life — in politics, in business, in education and at home,” she said.
However, citing a World Bank Report, released in March 2017, she also pointed out that the rate of women’s workforce participation in India had worsened over the years.
“This is despite decades of economic growth and increasing levels of women’s education,” the envoy said.