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‘Canada is an Old Friend, India is a Dear Friend’: Australian HC on Diplomacy, Energy Transition, 2024 QUAD – News18

Australian High Commissioner to India Philip Green OAM, in an interview with News18, said Australia wants India-Canada ties to become normal, and being the member of Five Eyes alliance, it is “painful” for them to see the current situation between both the countries.

Amidst the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, Green said “humanitarian access” to the people in Gaza is being provided, stressing diplomacy has its place, which is why Australian foreign minister Penny Wong has spoken to the foreign ministers of Egypt, UAE, Jordan and all those involved in the regional conflict.

Green also elaborated on Australia’s focus on energy transition of critical minerals such as lithium and cobalt for

fuelling India’s massive electrical vehicles industry.

On reports that Australian PM Anthony Albanese may attend the next Quad summit in India during the Republic Day, Green said his country is looking forward to it, but did not divulge the details.

Q: How has your journey been in India so far?

A: The first thing is that it has been very pacy. I had three ministerial visits and a Prime Minister visit in my first four weeks here. In my first eight weeks, I travelled to eight Indian cities. I come here at a very special time in our bilateral relationship. I come here at a time of unique closeness. We have seen the genuine intimacy between our two Prime Ministers both on visits to Australia and our Prime Minister’s visit here and I’ve seen that up close with the two of them meeting at the G20. But its more than just a sentiment. There are three powerful drivers behind our bilateral relationship at the moment — an unprecedented level of strategic alignment, a very strong sense of complementarity between our two economies where our green energy transition, our critical minerals, our ability to fuel India’s need for training for its young people are at an all-time high. And the third driver is the human bridge. Around a million people of Indian origin now live in Australia, making an important contribution to our society. So, it’s a unique time to be here as an ambassador, and I’m planning to make the most of it.

Q: The Delhi declaration was seen as an achievement for the G20 grouping. Perhaps, at the most difficult times, when the world is seemingly divided in two blocs, India did manage to pull off the declaration and delivered the action-oriented agenda. How do you look at this achievement of G20 nations coming together and the consensus which was seen in New Delhi?

A: It was a very good G20. It demonstrated India’s place now amongst the leading players of the world. The achievement from a consensus communique is something big, but also there were important low-level advances in the G20. For example, in the finance track, an agreement to regulate cyber currencies and cyber assets and a new ambition in relation to getting private capital into the multilateral development was established. You talked about India and the global south and that was very much on display. India’s bringing the African Union into the G20 is a powerful symbol. I saw genuine partnership between India and many countries of the developed West, with the United States, Japan, Australia, and many of the European countries. The ability of India to do so at the same time as a coalition and its credential for the global south is notable and impressive.

Q: I have had the opportunity to interview your predecessor about the legacy he is leaving behind during the visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Australia and vice-versa. What more needs to be done when it comes to India-Australia ties?

A: High Commissioner Barry O’ Farrell did a great job here and at a time when there was perhaps the highest ever uptick in our bilateral relationship. His achievement of those headline visits that you noted as well as the first free trade agreement between our countries. The more I think about it is this in five years’ time where we’re going to be, obviously, we’ll have a second phase free trade agreement. By 2035, there will be 1.2 million Indian visitors to Australia each year. We want Australian lithium and cobalt to be powering India’s EV and electric power industry. We want Australian technology to be embedded in the creation of millions of solar panels. We want Australian universities not just to be training Australian youth in Australia, but draw campuses in India. And we want a stronger strategic alignment, a closer engagement between our armed forces on maritime domain awareness. But the job is not done and my ambition is to take it a little way forward and to execute this.

Q: On the recent diplomatic standoff between India and Canada, the US ambassador to Canada David Coleman said they were shared intelligence among the Five Eyes partners that helped lead Canada in making statements that Justin Trudeau did. In fact, the Australian Security Intelligence chief said he has no reasons to dispute Canada’s claim. How do you look at these two statements? Can you confirm that there is evidence between the Five Eyes alliance countries?

A: It is not my policy and practice to comment on intelligence matters. I wouldn’t be going there. Let me say this. I’ve had a lot of practical experience as a diplomat, this is my fifth timeas ambassador. And that tells me that there are some moments when it’s better that less is said about issues rather than more. I would like to draw you to the comments that our foreign minister has made that are available to you and your viewers on the internet. Let me put this in a different frame. Canada is an old friend of Australia and India is a dear friend of Australia. I think you and your viewers know what it’s like in a family situation, in a work situation or friendship, when two of your dearest friends are having difficulties, that is painful. It’s difficult for us. We want India and Canada to find a new settling point for their bilateral relationship as soon as possible. We hope that that will be sooner rather than later. We hope that that will lead to the ties between the two countries resuming to normalcy.

Q: After the bombing at a hospital in Gaza, many political observers and geopolitical experts were expecting that to be a turning point in a war or that ceasefire would be announced. But what we are looking at right now is that Western countries such as the US, UK, India Australia and Canada are backing Israel. Perhaps, there are two demands – for immediate ceasefire and to secure the humanitarian corridor in Gaza. What is your country’s position given the crisis in Gaza and the civilians being held hostage by Hamas?

A: What we are looking for is humanitarian pauses. The situation in Gaza at the moment is dire. We have longed called for the protection of human life, and we have served civilian life and we have called for humanitarian access. Some of it has begun, but it’s not enough. That’s why, we are calling for humanitarian pauses to be able to get enough supplies into Gaza to meet the needs of the Gazan people.

Q: As a career diplomat, excessive diplomacy has been put in place by many countries in West Asia to build some sort of consensus as the stakes are high amid the developments including the Israel-Hamas war. Do you see that the world organisations have been losing diplomacy once again? We have a situation where other wars have not started, but there is a he risk of a regional conflict.

A: Diplomacy has its place. Not everything we want will be able to be achieved but it’s important that we all try hard. That’s why our Foreign Minister has been in touch in recent times with the foreign ministers of Israel, Palestinian Authority, UAE, Jordan, Egypt and other countries who are involved in this. We are active so are the Americans, the French and the British. Will we achieve all of the ambitions that we hope. Probably not. Are a range of players doing their utmost? I think it’s reasonable to say yes. But the situation is critical. The humanitarian situation is dire, and for Australia, getting humanitarian pauses in place to allow that is the immediate objective.

Q: There are reports that India’s planning QUAD meeting in January on the occasion of Republic Day. Perhaps, we can expect Australian Prime Minister to be in New Delhi again. If you can confirm and elaborate a little bit on this?

A: The responsibility for announcing the dates of next year’s QUAD summit lies with Prime Minister Modi. I am not in the business of taking that away from him. I did talk to our PM at the G20 about next year’s QUAD summit. He is very much looking forward to it; once dates are settled he’ll be very keen to come. Can I just say this too about substance? The last time I came to India before I was assigned here was in 2018. At that time, I was responsible for the QUAD in Canberra, and where we are now is so different to where we were. In those days, we were having occasional meetings at senior official level, with ministers not always issuing a communique. Now, annual meetings at the leader’s level, clear work programmes, achievements on the ground in the areas of health security, infrastructure, other fields. So, we are in a totally different field. I can’t identify myself a four-country grouping that has gone so far so fast as the QUAD has over the last five years.

Q: There are some subjects in which there is a lot of work being done. Energy transition of critical minerals — can elaborate a little bit on how both India and Australia are collaborating on this?

A: On critical minerals, we foresee a time where Australian lithium, Australian cobalt will be fuelling India’s massive industry in electric vehicles and batteries. How do we get from here to there? Well, there are two big activities going on. Bbetween the two governments. We’ve identified five projects in Australia. This is a mining project in Australia for lithium and cobalt, which will be of interest to Indian firms. That’s going on. This goes to the level of demand in this country. Individual Indian companies are coming to me and saying they need access to Australian resources in the field of lithium and help promote trade. So, that’s one aspect that’s really powerful. The other aspect that is very important is that we in Australia plan to have green energy capability on a giga scale. For that, we will need inputs, particularly, of solar panels. We want to make sure that there is a diversified supply of solar panels from a range of countries and India is a key country that we see as a major manufacturer of solar. That’s why, we have a Solar Alliance and we are working together so that Australian technology can help build an Indian industry ofcreating millions of solar panels.

Q: With the World Cup going on, Team India is doing good, but looks like the Australian team is not at their best. Are you tracking the developments?

A: We have had a couple of early losses but the boys are in good spirit. I saw them on Sunday night. David Warner and Alex Carey and Cameron Green all in pretty good shape. I think they had a rocky start but things are now on the up. I’ll be there in Dharamsala to support them against New Zealand. When we talk about the tournament, of course, India is doing very well and they’re clearly a team to beat. I think what’s charming about this tournament is the success of some of the less qualified teams. The Netherlands winning matches, Afghanistan winning matches. That’s a great contest and a great spectacle. I am thoroughly enjoying it.

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