India and Australia will face common challenges in the Indo-Pacific as the COVID-19 pandemic is stretching much of the world’s governmental capacity, said Barry O’Farrell, Australian High Commissioner-designate, in an address to the National Defence College (NDC) while calling for greater cooperation especially stressing on trilateral cooperation between India, Australia and Indonesia.
In this regard, observing that cooperation between India and Australia in Southeast Asia was a natural fit, he said in the address through videoconference, “As a starting point, we should build on last year’s successful trilateral maritime security workshop with Indonesia to identify new ways that our three countries can collaborate to be the best possible custodians of the Indian Ocean.”
In a separate development, the Australian High Commission, in coordination with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), gave a ride to India’s Ambassador to Indonesia Pradeep Rawat and his family in one of the repatriation flights to Australia that had a stopover at Denpasar in Indonesia, official sources said.
“Australia was very happy and keen to help two of our strongest Indo-Pacific partners, India and Indonesia, in this matter,” diplomatic sources said adding the trilateral cooperation had been growing and would continue to be important as we considered the implications of COVID-19 for Indo-Pacific regional order.
Stating that COVID-19 would not necessarily change the nature of threats faced but would hasten the pace at which they were developing, Mr. O’Farrell said even allowing for COVID, the Indo-Pacific would continue to be the engine of the global economy in the decades to come.
On the likely impact of the pandemic on the global and regional dynamics, he said it would take time to play out. “But I see a U.S. far more cautious about exercising global leadership than in the past. I see even faster shifts in the Indo-Pacific power balance, with an associated sharpening of strategic competition. And an even more factious multilateral system,” he stated.
On enhancing bilateral cooperation, he said there were many ways the two could reinforce each other’s efforts and one of the ways was “we can make defence facilities available to each other to expand our militaries’ respective operational reach.” This was already an evolving area with a logistics support agreement in the final stages of being concluded.
The High Commissioner designate also referred to the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region which is emerging as a regional hub for monitoring maritime movements and cooperation. “We’re glad to be contributing a Liaison Officer to it in due course,” he stated.