Third Indo Pacific Oration

  • Speech, E&OE

Sunjoy Joshi: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Third Indo‑Pacific Oration.  Senator the Honourable Marise Payne, Minister Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women Australia, Ambassador Barry O'Farrell, my colleague Harsh.

A very warm welcome to this event today. This is something we've been doing with the Australian High Commission since 2015, and for the benefit of the Minister let me recall how we came to co‑host this platform. 

In 2010, madam, when there was much talk about the Asian century, and think tanks, a group of I would say idle idealists in ORF put on their thinking hats and began ideating.  The logic which developed was that given the trends of the times Australia and India were the two countries that seriously needed to come together to uphold the value of democratic norms in what was to be the Asian century. 

So ten years ago, this does not stop here, ten years ago exactly in 2011 at the Lowy Institute the Observer Research Foundation and the Heritage Foundation came together and authored a joint research project which was called Shared Goals, Converging Interests:  A plan for US‑Australia‑India Cooperation in the Indo‑Pacific.  So that was ten years ago. 

At that time, let me confess, the report encountered a fair amount of curiosity.  Then there were also some raised eyebrows, and equally prompt denials that anything like this was happening by many of the better informed. But as we all know that the best things take time.  And ten years later what we are seeing is that the initial trepidation, the initial hesitation, they're long gone.  And what we find today is that the ties between the two countries have graduated from being confined to talk about bowling and batting strategies and just cricket.  I'm not a great cricket fan so I didn't have much to talk about there.  But have moved on from there to discover and place each other in the larger field of play, which is the strategic calculus of the 21st century.  And that is where we are today. 

Since then, madam, as yourself have remarked recently, the relationship has grown to the point where today it is on a historic high. So that is why your visit at this time is so special, this Third Indo‑Pacific Oration is so special. 

If that alone were not reason enough, then to make this occasion special, you know, you have had the rapidly unfolding events of the last few weeks which actually ordain an emphatic reiteration of all that binds the two of us together. 

And honestly let me tell you that Minister Payne is here on a visit that has brought her and her colleague the Australian Minister for Defence, first, they went to Jakarta yesterday.  Today, they're New Delhi.  Then on to South Korea, and finally to Washington DC and the UNGA in New York. 

So this is a series of Two‑Plus‑Two meetings which are being conducted which alone shows ‑ and these are all Indo‑Pacific countries where these meetings are being held.  So the idea of the Indo‑Pacific as it stands between our countries has a salience which was unimaginable before. 

The way these events have unfolded are a testimony to the fact that India and Australia are partners who realise the importance of working together and working towards a shared future.  That shared future just does not have the sole element of security but a common political and economic vision as spelt out in a shared vision statement of the Indo‑Pacific.  Within this, yes, of course, maritime security is a major focus and which with the signing of the mutual logistics agreement certainly sets the stage for stronger cooperation in the maritime domain. 

But India and Australia today also work together to combat the threats posed by climate change in an area where India's Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and Australia's Pacific Step‑up both come into play. 

Together we realise that we need to reshape a future that makes Indo‑Pacific far more resilient to face disruptions caused not just by climate change but also by pandemics such as COVID‑19, by terrorism, by cyber intrusions into the very fabric of our societies.  We need to build dependable supply chains that countries in the region can bank on in times of any crisis brought on by any of these disruptions. 

In this context, madam, I must mention the Quad Tech network which definitely has your stamp.  It was launched by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  One that ORF is extremely proud to be part and partner of.  This network is offering analysis and recommendations on shared challenges in the cyber and technology environment across all sectors. 

We are also delighted to participate at the Sydney Dialogue which we feel is, you know, a sister platform.  It complements and supplements forums such as Raisina Dialogue, particularly in the digital and technology domains. 

So there are opportunities aplenty for our countries.  I'm not going to talk about them but I'm going to ask the Minister to tell us more about them.  So with these words, madam, the floor is yours.  After your oration we will have a short, mediated conversation and questions moderated by Harsh.  Thank you. 

Marise Payne: Thank you very much, Sunjoy, for that very, very kind introduction.  High Commissioner Barry O'Farrell, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and to Trade, Secretary Catherine Campbell, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I can't begin to tell you how delighted I am to join you this evening, and I particularly thank the ORF, Observer Research Foundation, for hosting this event.  Indeed, it's always a pleasure to join ORF, either virtually, which I've been doing once or twice over the past 18 months, or in person. 

Indeed, after 18 months or so of virtual summits, speeches, meetings, events like this are an uplifting reminder of the activities that we can reclaim as we emerge from this pandemic. 

Now, Sunjoy, the bad news for you is I can talk about batting and bowling strategies, but I won't.  What I do want to talk about is some of the ways in which the world has changed, indeed beyond all of our imaginations since I last visited India in person for ORF's Raisina Dialogue in January of 2020.  Which is why it's so special to be back here in New Delhi today and being here in person is so important to me.  So thank you very much. 

Can I also say what an honour it is to be here as India begins celebrations for its 75th year of independence.  I bring with me on this visit the very best wishes of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the Minister for Defence Peter Dutton, who as Sunjoy said is travelling with me, may Parliamentary colleagues and so many Australians. 

In advance of the inaugural Australia‑India Two‑Plus‑Two meeting between foreign and Defence Ministers tomorrow I'll outline tonight the shared values and interests that have driven a rapid convergence in the respective outlooks of our two countries.  In the context of strategic competition in our region it's timely that we reflect on both the complementarities and the common outlook that form the basis of our cooperation in the Indo‑Pacific.  And marking just over a year since Prime Ministers Modi and Morrison signed a landmark comprehensive strategic partnership, I'll discuss building on that strong framework through multiple areas of practical cooperation in order to meet the emerging challenges of our time. 

Australia and India at their heart are both ancient and modern countries and cultures.  India's proud history extends far, far beyond the 75 years of independence. Indeed, one of the world's most ancient and sophisticated civilisations.  India has long been a cradle of humanity's shining achievements. A rich and diverse culture that has survived many challenges over the last millennium, as it continues to do today. 

Similarly, Australia's history stretching back tens of thousands of years, long before the formation of our modern nation 120 years ago. Australia's indigenous peoples are custodians of one of the oldest continuing civilisations in the world. 

Some archaeological and genetic evidence indicates that our connection started millennia ago, with studies suggesting that people of Indian origin visited the continent we now call Australia more than 4,000 years ago. 

Jumping forward to the 20th century, the engagement of our countries was much shaped by our membership of the Commonwealth of Nations. During World Wars I and 2 Australian and India troops fought side‑by‑side to protect the international order, the values and the freedoms that we continue to believe in firmly today. 

Australia took a positive stand on decolonisation in Asia, including attending the 1949 New Delhi conference on Indonesia, which contributed to the independence of our other close regional partner that I've also visited this week, as Sunjoy said.  And since India's independence generations of Australians have admired the bold nation building project begun by Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Ambikar and continued by their successors up to Prime Minister Modi. 

This project has not only seen India grow and modernise as a nation but also take its place as a major global power of real and positive consequence.  The opening of India's economy in the 1990s heralded a new era of opportunity for Australia and for our region. 

India's influence has been extraordinary.  From faith to food, from film to fashion. Indian culture and heritage have been embraced and celebrated across the world.  The contribution of the Indian diaspora has strengthened the fabric of communities around the globe, including in Australia.  In fact I would say particularly in Australia.

I'm both a resident and a representative of Western Sydney.  I'm very proud of the indispensable role that Australians of Indian descent, Indian migrants and Indian students play in modern Australia, and particularly in my part of modern Australia. 

Today, under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and my good friend and counterpart the Minister for External Affairs, India is showing its leadership in contributing to a peaceful, secure and prosperous region. 

It's certainly an exciting time to witness the continued rise of a new India, a country that is both ancient and modern, confident, aspirational, vibrant and tech savvy.  And of course a country that is proudly democratic, outward looking and a leading Indo‑Pacific power. 

The heritage, the history that Australia and India share, grounded in common values, has paved the way for a shared vision of our region.  From the most fundamental perspective of geography, our countries are the northern and eastern anchors of the Indian Ocean.  The Northeast Indian Ocean is home to major maritime thoroughfares, and we share deep interests in its stability. 

But the commonality of our vision is founded on more than shared history or geography.  Our contemporary strategic and economic interests in the region are very much aligned.  The direction of Australia's economic interests in our region was historically northern.  But our modern Indo‑Pacific vision has us looking to our western horizon across the Indian Ocean as well, recognising India's pivotal role to the wider region. 

This expansive view of our region has never been more important as the Indo‑Pacific faces significant challenges.  The most immediate of these is of course COVID‑19, which has had significant impacts on the health, the development, the economic prosperity of every country in our region.  All Australians watched with heartfelt concern as India responded to the serious surge of COVID‑19 this year.  Just as we know Indians did when Australia faced terrible bushfires last year, with citizens and communities fund‑raising and donating in support. 

Vaccines provide great hope for a return to normal, and I want to acknowledge the particularly important role that India has played in this area.  India has made impressive progress in manufacturing and distributing vaccines, and we look forward to continuing to working with India and of course other Quad partners to expand access to COVID‑19 vaccines in the Indo‑Pacific. 

COVID‑19 has also increased economic uncertainty and deepened risks of recession and protectionism.  It's exacerbated pressure on rules, norms and institutions.  It's fuelled dangerous disinformation.  It's affected supply chains.  And as we respond to these impacts of the pandemic we're also grappling with existing and longer-term challenges.  The impact of climate change to which our region is highly vulnerable.  Transnational crime.  The persistent threat of terrorism.  We face cyber and critical technologies challenges and emerging threats to our security including, as I said, from dangerous disinformation. 

What Australia and India particularly share is a vision of the Indo‑Pacific region that is open and inclusive and resilient. A region in which states cooperate and resolve differences based on international rules and norms.  I also reiterated Australia's commitment to this vision of the region in my discussions with Indonesian counterparts this week.  It is, whether through the work we do with key partners, through the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo‑Pacific, it's a genuinely shared vision even if we each have our own language to describe it. 

We seek a region in which the rights of all states large and small are respected, with a strategic balance in which no single dominant power dictates outcomes for others.  It's a principle expounded by Minister Jaishankar when he drew parallels with "India's own pluralistic and complex history which indicates the natural state of the world is multipolarity". 

As proud democracies values like freedom and openness are vital to Australians and to Indians.  They're part of what makes our vibrant countries successful.  They equip our countries to respond to global and regional challenges and to engage and cooperate with others.  We look for opportunities to come together to have disputes resolved peacefully.  Australia stands with India and the vast majority of others in the region in opposing destabilising or escalatory actions.  We agree that the rules and norms and habits of cooperation must be at the centre of our region's strategic culture.  Not a might is right mentality or coercive tactics. 

Consequently, we acknowledge and commend India under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi for taking a strong regional leadership role. Australia is working with India through Regional Fora, including the Indian Ocean Rim Association, the East Asia Summit, trilateral arrangements.  Australia and India with Indonesia, Australia and India with France, Australia and India with Japan.  We are working on a practical, positive regional agenda through the Quad, including most recently and importantly at leader level to help realise our vision of an open, prosperous and resilient Indo‑Pacific where all nations are sovereign. 

The Quad has evolved swiftly, and I think very effectively over the past two years since our first ministerial level meeting, September two years ago between Minister Jaishankar and me, along with Japan's Foreign Minister Motegi and then US Secretary of State Pompeo. 

It is a thoroughly contemporary grouping.  A diplomatic networking of countries that engages flexibly and practically, with the clear purpose of enhancing stability and prosperity by meeting challenges quickly and nimbly, whether that is in the most recent discussions the provision of COVID‑19 vaccines, cooperation on supply chains whose vulnerability has been exposed by the pandemic, the impact of climate change or responding to disinformation disseminated to exploit strategic advantage during COVID‑19. 

The Quad is the kind of innovative diplomacy we need in the 21st century, when we're grappling with disruption across a range of fronts, from transgressions of international rules and norms to the massive impact of frontier technologies.  This strategic competition arising amidst this disruption compels countries like India and Australia, who value freedom and openness and sovereignty, to participate in and shape our region. 

We all have a role to play in a future region in which the natural multipolarity that Dr Jaishankar has espoused finds a peaceful and prosperous balance because we respect each other's sovereignty.  

Australia is confident about our role in such a region, and it is obvious that India is a natural leader within the rules-based system. We welcomed India's chairing of the United Nations Security Council debate on maritime security last month, the first of its kind.  Which brought countries together to underline the central role of the United Nations convention on the law of the sea. 

India has shown their practical initiative in the same context to the Indo‑Pacific Oceans Initiative, the IPOI, which was announced by Prime Minister Modi at the 2019 East Asia Summit.  Australia is very proud to be partnering with India in leading the marine ecology pillar of the initiative, contributing our own experience and expertise in managing marine plastics, a pressing challenge for many countries in our region.  I was pleased to start the announce of our practical cooperation under this initiative at the Indo‑Pacific Business Summit in July.  That one was online of course. 

Australia's leading scientific research organisation, the CSIRO, is forming a knowledge partnership with India's National Centre for Coastal Research.  There is great scope for enhanced cooperation in this area, particularly given the individual and personal passions for these issues of both Prime Ministers Modi and Morrison.  That's why the Australian Government also recently announced funding for joint Australia‑India research to support Prime Minister Modi's vision for the IPOI. 

Further to that, I'm pleased to announce tonight that Australia will contribute $10 million to the India led Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and a million dollars to the India led international solar alliance.  Building on India's leader and on Australia's role in the Pacific, and I welcome Sunjoy's reference to the Pacific Step‑up, this commitment includes a technical assistance facility for small island developing states, helping them to plan for systemic disaster and climate challenges, to attract public and private financing to enhance long‑term resilience.  We're also exploring further collaboration with India to support research and development of low emissions technologies.  These technologies will be critical to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring economic growth and transition to a clean energy future. 

Ladies and gentlemen, tomorrow I will have the opportunity to meet with a number of key Indian counterparts including holding, as I said, the Foreign and Defence Ministers inaugural Two‑Plus‑Two meeting. This inaugural meeting demonstrates that our partnership is stronger than ever.  It's a key commitment under the comprehensive strategic partnership. On defence and security we have made substantial progress in the first year of our comprehensive strategic partnership, particularly to strengthen interoperability under our mutual logistics support arrangement.  Australia participated in the past two iterations of Exercise MALABAR.  The AUSINDEX bilateral defence exercises are currently under way in the Northern Territory.  And we look to having India participate in Exercise Talisman Sabre soon. And in undertaking more complex bilateral activities and exercises. 

Our economic cooperation also continuing to grow. The pandemic has reminded us of the importance of economic liberalisation, both in terms of the rules that govern trade flows and the infrastructure that supports our supply chains.  It has been a timely reminder of the importance of building resilient supply chains between trusted reliable trading partners.  It's essential given our reliance on these supply chains to move medical supplies and food around the world, to protect livelihoods and essential to kick start our economic recovery. 

We also recognise that India is on a trajectory as a global manufacturing hub, as well as a key market for emerging technologies. We want to work with India to achieve this ambition including, importantly, through secure supply chains of the critical minerals that are essential to the technologies on which our future economies will rely.  Phones and commuting, batteries, powerful magnets, semi‑conductors and advanced materials.  And while the pandemic has disrupted key areas of engagement, such as education, we are working hard to get Indian students back to Australia as soon as possible. 

I'm also pleased to report that Australia's Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister, my colleague Dan Tehan, and Commerce Minister Goyal have instructed officials to work to an ambitious time frame for striking a trade deal.  We're working towards an interim agreement as an early outcome with a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement to follow.  This will be welcome and important news for Australian and Indian businesses looking to diversify and grow their markets.  It's also a vital vote of confidence in the rules based international order for which India and Australia are long‑term champions. 

There are so many different aspects of our partnership that I can't canvass all of the work that we're doing in the time I have this evening, whether in defence or maritime or climate change or critical minerals, in education, in health, in science, in space, in agriculture, in film. But I do want to highlight one common thread that runs throughout our partnership, and that is the central role of technology.  India is an emerging technology superpower and it's easy to see why.  Projections tell us that half of the next billion Internet users will be Indian.  Half. Record foreign direct investments have been made in India's technology sector during COVID‑19.  India has more than 60 unicorns and over 340 start‑up incubators.  India is also a leading source of trusted technical talent globally, and India will be a leader in technology rules, norms and settings into the future. 

Australia again is a natural partner in this space. Not only do we share common values, but Australia also brings to the table an advanced technology sector with researchers and experts at the cutting edge of critical technologies.  In particular 5G, but also in AI, in quantum, in 6G and beyond. 

Technology presents significant economic and innovation opportunities, but it will also be the key theatre of 21st century competition. Australia wants to work with India to ensure the next generation of critical technologies is shaped by standards and rules that uphold and protect our shared democratic values and promote human dignity, that support economic growth and development and innovation, and ensure our technologies are secure and resilient and trusted.  And to deliver on these priorities I'm also pleased to announce today the opening of the second round of grants under the Australia‑India Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership.  Following on from our successful inaugural grants round this year we're seeking high quality proposals from experts in India and in Australia.  They will work together on projects to advance our shared interests on frameworks, standards and best interests for critical technologies like AI, quantum and next generation telecommunications. 

We believe this investment will help shape a global technology environment that meets Australian's and India's shared vision of an open, free, rules-based Indo‑Pacific region. 

Friends, the threads that bind our two countries have been meticulously woven through a long and shared history.  Our communities are deeply connected.  The Indian diaspora is amongst the most successful and integrated migrant communities in Australia and their contribution to our country is warmly and immensely valued. 

Our countries are working together bilaterally, trilaterally, through the Quad, multilaterally to realise the opportunities that our region offers and to respond to the many shared challenges that we face.  We have seen significant growth of the Australia‑India relationship, and I thank my friend Jai for helping us achieve that. 

As India marks its 75th year of independence you have much to celebrate.  2022 is shaping up as a celebration of India and its rightful place in the world.  We also look forward to celebrating 75 years of relations with independent India over the course of the next year and continuing to strengthen our cooperation and enduring friendship. 

I'm confident that together we'll recover from COVID‑19.  We'll continue to build a region that is peaceful and prosperous and secure and continue in the proud traditions of our ancient and modern partnership. 

A strong Australia‑India relationship is good for our two nations, but it's also good for the wider region.  By working in partnership and with our friends and allies we can sustain a system of rules that makes our region more secure, generate the kind of dynamic economic progress that makes our region more prosperous and create the vital diplomatic threads that will make our region more stable in this time of disruption and uncertainty. 

Thank you once again for hosting me at the ORF. It is, as ever, a great pleasure to join you and I look forward to continuing to work with the ORF into the future and hopefully being welcomed back to New Delhi on future occasions. Thank you. 

Harsh V. Pant: Thank you, Madam Foreign Minister, for a very expansive account of not only the logic of the regional developments that we've seen in the recent past but also I think fundamentally underscoring the point that comes again and again when we talk of contemporary state of affairs in Australia‑India relations, is the very logic of what it means to be friends and partners at a time of great strategic turbulence in the Indo‑Pacific.  I think that logic was clearly explicated.  It was not only the fact that much is happening in and around COVID but also, I think the underlying realities of structural changes, institutional informities and normative shifts that we are witnessing in the region.  Thank you, ma'am, for a wonderful oration. 

I would just, what we will do I think over the next few minutes that we have is to raise a few questions and if you can elaborate on some of the themes that you have already mentioned, and then we will open this up for a wider conversation with the audience. 

Let me begin where I think we should begin which is this the Indo‑Pacific Oration and Indo‑Pacific of course has been evolving continuously, it has not been a steady rise.  The discussion, the discourse on the Indo‑Pacific has been quite contested at times but you have been there at the very front row of this evolution.  As a politician, as a senator, as a policy maker, as a practitioner that is operationalising those ideas into reality, what do you make of some of the challenges that have made it possible for us to envision Indo‑Pacific today in its contemporary context?  And today's contemporary moment where we are, where we're so much at ease with this idea, you know, if you go back two decades back, or even a decade back, it was a difficult ride, how do you see, you know, the nations in the region imbibing it into their own philosophies and to their foreign policy and national security strategies, as well as now almost accepting the very logic of it, some countries do not, but I think most countries in the region do?  So how do you see that given your front row seat at this evolution? 

Marise Payne: Harsh, I think if you had said to me 15 years ago, 20 years ago that ASEAN would come together to develop the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo‑Pacific, I would have said that that was optimistic, that that was unlike ASEAN in its then core approach to business.  But I think an initiative like that in which we know particularly Indonesia was a strong driver, an initiative like that really reflects the changes, the growth, the dynamism, the power, the activity, and when I say power I mean across multiple levels, that has grown in the end Pacific as countries have become stronger and wealthier, as people have been lifted out of poverty, and as those natural progressions have taken their place. 

I do worry that some of those very positive advances, particularly in terms of economic growth and lifting populations out of poverty, and particularly the impact that has had on the lives of women and girls across the region, is severely impacted by COVID‑19 and the economic impacts of COVID, and the health security impacts of COVID‑19.  And so greater economic activity, a greater strategic weight, the competition that has increased naturally as countries want to exercise their own position, those sorts of changes have been typical of the situation that you ask about. 

From Australia's perspective, and I think from India's perspective, competition is not negative or bad.  In fact it's healthy.  But I think most of us would say that it needs to be within a certain construct of accepted rules and norms that really have enabled the Indo‑Pacific to grow in the way that you described and that I've responded to. 

Harsh V. Pant: And so, Madam Foreign Minister, what happens now to this idea, this concept, you know, this emerging strategic geography when you look at it today after America's withdrawal from Afghanistan, is there going to be any impact, if any, on this notion about America is a great stakeholder in the Indo‑Pacific, you know, bilateral partnerships with India, bilateral partnerships with Australia but also Quad?   Is there some concern somewhere that this withdrawal and the manner of this withdrawal has some raised some questions about this geography? I know this is a bit, you know, we don't really talk about Afghanistan when we generally talk about Indo‑Pacific but I think you know that India's vision of course is all the way from Africa to Oceania.  So in that context where do you see this debate going in the coming months and days? 

Marise Payne: So you ask that on an interesting day when tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of 9/11.  It reminds us I think of the significant impact of the events of 9/11 on the global order, of the significant changes that the international community has had to deal with in that time.  India not immune, Australia not immune, multiple countries in the Indo‑Pacific not immune from the threat of terrorism that was spawned out of so much of the events of 9/11.  Let me say and acknowledge the almost 4,000 killed by those events and their families, who tomorrow I think will be grieving in a very significant way.  So it does come full circle to your question in relation to Afghanistan as well. 

But for Australia our alliance with the United States has never been stronger and we have been very, very clear of the value that we place on the presence of the United States in the Indo‑Pacific, of the importance of their engagement and of the engagement we have together, whether it is bilaterally, trilaterally, in the Quad and multilaterally, it contributes to strategic balance and it's essential for strategic balance.  And from Australia's perspective it is highly welcome. 

Harsh V. Pant: So this brings us to this obvious question of, you know, of the elephant in the room, the role of China of course has been, as the middle powers has shaped the discourse on the Indo‑Pacific, China's rise perhaps has been one of the most important factors in also giving some coherence to this notion. 

I was wondering if, you know, we are both, India and Australia, we are both robust democracies, we have great interesting engaging debates on how to engage with China.  Australia has had a very, very interesting debate over the last few years.  India of course has had a long‑standing debate on this question.  We continue to debate that although there has been some clarity post Galwan Valley incident last year. 

So I was just interested, I would be interested to hear your views if Australia has finally found a new rhythm in its China policy.  Is Australia still looking for that sustained outcome in its engagement with this notion of what to do with China and how to engage with China at a level which takes care of both of the national security and the economic imperatives? 

Marise Payne: There's a lot of questions in your question so let me start with Australia's approach on this, and to be very clear about the importance that Australia places on the Australia‑China relationship.  It is a relationship of long‑standing and of great importance, not just because we have a very strong economic relationship but because we have watched and seen the rise of China as it has grown, as it has lifted millions and millions of people out of poverty.  That rise has contributed to the strength and the growth of the Indo‑Pacific as well.  But with that growth and with that development into a strong and significant power comes, in our view, a degree of responsibility in how one exercises that power. 

Australia will always engage constructively with China, but we always, always consider the advancement of our national interests in doing so, and any sovereign nation would take the same approach.  What we have seen in recent times has certainly presented challenges in the relationship because we have considered that some of those actions have threatened Australia's national interests, and there are a number of actions which were enumerated publicly by diplomats in Canberra that were provided to media by the Chinese Embassy in Canberra, where no country would actually agree to change their approach.  Countries which respect a free and open media would not agree to restrict that.  Countries which respect the independence of institutions like think tanks and universities would not agree to restrict those.  Countries which in protecting their own national interests protect their own security in cyberspace and in other areas would not agree to do that. 
So where we see our national interests not advanced by those actions we will always say so, as you would expect a sovereign nation to do. 

To that end though I would always reiterate that we would like to pursue constructive dialogue and we have made offers on countless occasions recently, in fact as recently as events in Afghanistan to which you referred in your previous question, to engage with our counterparts, and they're not taken up.  I actually think the dialogue is vital and we would welcome that opportunity. 

Harsh V. Pant: You mentioned in your oration, and we have discussed at various levels, the evolution of the Quad which has been one of the most interesting stories in recent years.  We have seen it almost galloping now after a stuttering start. So when you look at that evolution what do you think has been the most important driver in that momentum that it has gained recently, given that at one point you would recall both India and Australia were reluctant to embrace it whole‑heartedly?  What has been the most important driver in your opinion apart from the fact that there are fundamental structural shifts happening which needed to be responded to, but I think it also represents, a Quad represents a kind of attempt to bring in some institutionality to the region's security architecture which otherwise is absent, institutions are relatively missing? 

Marise Payne: I think that Dr Jaishankar mentioned some aspects of this in response to, in his recent remarks in Australia when he made a presentation online in recent weeks, and I obliquely referred to those in my remarks tonight. This is the time for innovative and creative and responsive and flexible and practical initiatives like the partnership that the Quad presents for great democracies, if I may say, of yours and mine, for great democracies who have a shared interest in a region, in fact in a globe but particularly in a region that is free and open and independent and secure and stable, that come together with shared support for those global rules and norms that have given us the exact prosperity and capacity to be the nations we are today, and to support across this vast dynamic region our partners, our counterparts, on a whole range of issues: response to COVID‑19, the Quad vaccine partnership which will see a biological vaccine doses in the Indo‑Pacific by mid‑2022, where India and Australia and the United States and Japan play different but important roles in ensuring that delivery.  Our support on the real challenges of climate change and the impact that that is having across the region.  On critical technologies and cyber.  On disinformation.  I try very hard to make sure when I talk about disinformation that I emphasise it is dangerous disinformation.  In a pandemic disinformation kills.  And so the flexibility and the agility that the Quad brings in this diplomatic network I think is very useful, very powerful. 

I had this discussion in Jakarta last night. I sat down with all of the committee of the permanent representatives of ASEAN in Jakarta last night and one of the ambassadors asked me a question about this.  And what struck me about the timing of the ambassador's question was that from all of the preceding comments from the other nine countries, they had each, almost every one of them, touched on one of the areas where the Quad is engaging in that regional resilience, that regional support that I think has been so effective in recent times.  And yes, you're right, Harsh, it has happened and come a long way in a relatively short period of time, but I think in a very positive way. 

Harsh V. Pant: And since you mentioned ASEAN I think, you know, [indistinct] the Commander of the Indo‑Pacific Command a few days back and he suggested that US would be open to the idea of having more partners in Quad or expanding Quad with other like‑minded countries.  What is your take on that? 

Marise Payne: I haven't seen Admiral Aquilino's comments but what ‑ again, that was also raised interestingly last night, great minds think alike ‑ and I think that the effectiveness of the Quad itself lies into its genesis which I spoke about before, but also because every country of the four has an important dialogue relationship with ASEAN already, and also essential bilateral relationships with key partners in ASEAN and then more broadly throughout the region.  I'm not sure that it's necessary to formalise that but I'm also not sure it's necessary to grow what is currently a very strong and productive group of four, as I said, passionately committed democracies. 

What it's also important to recognise is that none of us try to force our style of government and our approach to the administration of our nations on anyone else.  We work with such a broad range of partners, and I think try very hard to prosecute the case for the resilience the Quad can build in the region on almost a system‑neutral approach. 

Harsh V. Pant: Madam, in your oration you talked about the economic dimension of the relationship and there is a view in India in some quarters that while ‑ as you mentioned Australia‑India economic relationship has taken off yet it's struggling to meet its full potential and I think, you know, there is a view that many Australian companies actually have not looked at India, grabbed the opportunity that India presents, there has also been the one that you mentioned, the agreement, trade agreement that has been long in the making and long in the negotiations, and of course we are hearing reports, as you seem to be underscoring that an early harvest trade deal is in the offing. Just broadly on the economic dimension of the relationship, why is it lagging, I mean given that everything is going in the right direction, that there complementarities in our economic set‑ups, are there any specific ways in which India or Australia, Australian policy makers that can help this move forward, of course a trade deal with help, and if you can elaborate on how successful we have been in moving over some of the challenges that have been putting us back on the trade front? 

Marise Payne: So there's a few things about that.  I think, and I'm not going to stray into the lane of my Trade Minister, that would be self‑harm for a Foreign Minister, but can I say the development of the India Economic Strategy that Peter Varghese of course authored, former High Commissioner and former Secretary of my own Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, I think was a pretty significant down payment on the point to which we have come now.  India then produced its complementary, if you like, response in terms of the Indian‑Australia economic strategy, and now we see ourselves in much more structured and I think regular discussions on how to progress to the SECA, and I'm just trying to make sure I've got that acronym right, the SECA.  As you say, an early harvest hopefully towards the end of this year. So these have been important steps. 

As to why, I'm not sure that I have a definitive response.  I think that on both sides we should encourage our commercial friends to explore the opportunities to engage.  I know that I'm sitting in a former Premier of New South Wales who's now a High Commissioner here in New Delhi who if not the most passionate advocate is certainly in the running for the most passionate advocate of the bilateral engagement, but particularly building that commercial relationship, those trade relationships, and I suspect it will be a very big bottle of very, very good Australian champagne that he pops when we get the early harvest, and perhaps graduating to a Jeroboam by the time we get to the SECA and I want to be invited. But it is so full of potential. So I bring a great enthusiasm to this part of the discussion.  I know Minister Tehan brings great enthusiasm and is certainly working very hard on it with Commerce Minister Goyal. 

Harsh V. Pant: And related to this would be the issue of supply chains that you mentioned in your oration as well, and especially post‑COVID this has been a very, very important issue, all nations are discussing it in their own ways, always dependent on certain critical ‑ you know, on one particular country or group of countries this has been a big I think wake up call for many countries.  Now this, as we know, supply chain resilience has become a major factor in India‑Australia engagement as well, there is supply chain resilience initiative with Japan involved.  What are the steps are we taking in those directions in the context of supply chain resilience and how significant that is going to be for the region? 

Marise Payne: And again the Quad is doing work in this area as well in terms of engagement between the four countries, recognition of, identification of the key areas on which we need to be focused.  In my online life of COVID‑19 I couldn't count the number of meetings that were held amongst foreign ministers, industry ministers, trade ministers in relation to these issues, identifying where the gaps were, where the largest challenges were, and making sure that that connectivity between like‑mindeds who wanted to deal with trusted and reliable partners and who were interested in exploring those avenues, I couldn't count the number of meetings that were held on that. And in fact from Australia's perspective all of this has been guided through our broad COVID‑19 response, but I know it has seen our Industry Minister Christian Porter and his predecessor Karen Andrews very focused on our modern manufacturing initiative.  That needs to be responsive to where these gaps in supply chains have been identified.  I know the United States is doing similar work.  I understand India the same and also Japan.  From a regional perspective there has been a great focus on that. 

Again our friends from ASEAN last night also raised issues in relation to pharmaceuticals and vaccines in particular, where ASEANs might be able to contribute in the identification once gaps are identified in filling those gaps using their existing industries or growing new. There is I think an absolute awareness amongst governments, an acute awareness amongst governments that this is essential.  I don't think it's something that is solved overnight.  Absolutely not.  But we are certainly working closely together, and the initiative is there, and the commitment is there. 

Harsh V. Pant: And finally before I open this up for discussion for a set of questions from the audience, this framework agreement on cyber and cyber‑enabled technologies that was signed in 2020, you know, in a sense you mentioned this issue of cyber in your oration, you mentioned disinformation campaigns, et cetera.  How far ahead are we in terms of India‑Australia engagement on this question, because certainly this is a very important question for various reasons, not only cyber but also emerging technologies? 

Marise Payne: Well I think that the CSP and the cyber framework underneath that has really turbo charged our work together on this.  We will be continuing that.  We have a shared view about how the rules should apply online, as they do offline, and we've worked together very effectively, for example, in the expert working group in the UN context.  We are solid partners in that space as well.  So I think what we want to make sure that we do is maintain that momentum.  I have certainly collected, as I suspect many of my Foreign Minister counterparts, including Dr Jaishankar, have collected in the last 18 months some dire examples of dangerous disinformation, where we have seen manipulative, deceitful and wilfully dangerous material disseminated through what should be a positive and constructive approach using social media platforms.  We have to be absolutely conscious and conscientious about making sure that we call that out, that we call it out at every opportunity.  So when we see that the tech giants who receive a great deal of criticism on these issues do actually responsible steps, do actually take down pages, do actually strip back comments that they know are disinformation, I think we should acknowledge that.  But we also should expose the practitioners and expose them for the international community to see.  I think India and Australia have a shared commitment on that. 

Harsh V. Pant: Thank you very much.  And let me open this for some of the questions from the audience. Let me start at the very back, in the last row.  If can you please introduce yourself and ask the question, thank you. 

Question: Good evening, I'm Indrani Bagchi from the Times of India.  I listened with interest to the Minister speaking about engaging China constructively and I think that's important.  Within the Quad or within the bilateral context between India and Australia how do you think countries like India, Australia, maybe the US and Japan should be deterring China, Chinese aggression, Chinese expansionism is there for everybody to see.  You have felt it in certain ways, we have felt it in others.  How do you think we should deter China? 

Marise Payne: I don't seek to speak for any other country, I only seek to speak for Australia.  From Australia's perspective it is about acting consistently and clearly and constructively in line with, as I expressed in response to Harsh's question, our national interests and the values that we have clearly articulated over a very long time and which I have reiterated this evening in terms of the sort of region and globe that we want to see where a state, no matter its size, has an opportunity to participate, exercise its sovereign rights free of coercion, where the international community that has benefitted so greatly from the rules and norms that we have come to work within over decades, and I think the UNCLOS which I referred to in my remarks as well is a good example of this, where states can expect that they are the rules and norms.  We have benefitted enormously from those structures and Australia has respected them and engaged constructively over many, many years. For other nations ultimately it is a matter for them. 

Until from the Quad perspective, the Quad, as I said, is a diplomatic network.  It's not aimed at any one country.  In fact its vision is pan‑regional if you like in terms of the sort of region that I think all of the countries in the Quad, however they call it, however they articulate it, want to see and that is the freedom, the openness, the security and the stability of the Indo‑Pacific. 

Harsh V. Pant: Thank you.  The third row. 

Question: Good evening everyone.  I'm Shamika Ravi from the Brookings Institution.  Thank you, Minister Payne, for that wonderful discussion. Just switching gears to another topic because you're also the Minister for Women in your country and you've unveiled a very fascinating document called the National Action Plan for Women in Peace and Security.  I'm also aware given the statistic that all the other, you know, the three other countries of the Quad suffer from very severe gender inequality concerns as well. First of all, could you tell us what is this national action plan for women and is there a possibility that something like this could get on to the agenda of the Quad?  Thank you

Marise Payne: That'd be great.  I think UN Security Council resolution 1325 should be on the agenda of all of the formal and informal groupings that occur.  But of course it was UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women peace and security which began this conversation many years ago now in terms of the essential requirement for women to be part of resolutions around peace and security in their own environment, the durability and the difference that that makes to the survival of, for example, a peace agreement is statistically proven and statistically recorded, the difference it makes in a community to engage women in emergency responses, either to conflict or to humanitarian assistance or to similar sorts of actions. 

I've seen it in action myself, particularly in the Pacific.  I'll cite one example from the year that I became Australian's Defence Minister in 2015 when Australia deployed HMAS Canberra to Fiji to assist in the response to tropical cyclone Winston and Australia had engaged and trained and deployed gender advisors as part of the HMAS Canberra deployment to Fiji.  One of the most powerful stories I have ever heard told, and one I can actually tell without becoming quite emotional because there are many stories which are devastating of where women have not been involved in these solutions, where Australian soldiers, the engineers, the logisticians, the full panoply of Australia's presence in a small village on one of the impacted islands, began to announce to the community that their plan was to fix this and then that, then that and then they'd come to the road, then they'd go over and then they would do that.  But because gender advisors were engaged, because the basis of the engagement included the principles of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, there were women present, Fijian women present in the conversation who actually stopped The Conversation of the engineers and the logisticians and the heavy machinery operators to say, "Excuse me, if you can fix the school first and make it safe, if you can enable our children and our teachers to return to school in a safe building and premises, then we can all participate in the restoration of our community because we, the mums in this case, will not have to also be worrying about our children who will be in this unsafe environment which is heavily damaged, they'll be safe in school with their teachers and we can all help you get on with fixing our community".  It's so simple but it's transformative in terms of community response and in terms of, in this case, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. 

The next example, which could take me a lot longer to talk about so I won't put Harsh and Sunjoy through it, is Afghanistan. Twenty years, 20 years of women and girls able to participate in society, to be educated, to work, to play sport, to serve in their Defence Forces, to be police officers, to be public servants, to teach, to be protected from violence. 

Twenty years where that investment of the international community, and we will long debate, we will long debate the departure of the international community, but that 20 years says to me that the observation of the principles of UN Security Council resolution 1325 and a commitment to women, peace and security changes lives and it saves lives.  For me that's immensely powerful, immensely powerful. Frankly, if it was on the agenda of the G20, the G7, the Quad, every UN General Assembly meeting where it could possibly be discussed, of ASEAN, of the Pacific Islands Forum, of every other entity you can think of, then I think that only improve the lives of women and girls around the world. 

Question: Hi, I’m Sedan [indistinct] from Beyond, my question is, ma'am, you talk about the three trilateral, any plans to alleviate these trilaterals at leaders' level?  My second question is Two‑Plus‑Two meeting is going to happen, how big this milestone is for India and Australia? 

Marise Payne: In terms of bilaterals, if I heard you correctly, we will be having leader level discussions between our Prime Ministers, Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Morrison, as we did last year.  The leader level bilateral that enabled the signing of the comprehensive strategic partnership for example, as I said in my remarks, just left Indonesia this morning.  I know that Prime Minister Morrison, President Widodo will also be engaged in their annual leader level bilaterals as well before the end of this year. 

In terms of the Two‑Plus‑Two, I think it is very significant.  It's fair to say that I've had the extraordinary honour and privilege of serving as both Australia's Defence Minister and Australia's Foreign Minister, consecutively, not together, except for one awful six-week period recently, since 2015.  Awful by which I mean challenging.  Since 2015, and I have worked with a number of Defence and Foreign Minister equivalents here in India towards achieving a Two‑Plus‑Two.  I've worked with my dear friend, bless her, Sushma Swaraj, worked with Nirmala Sitharaman as Defence Minister, to come to the point that we are literally about to achieve tomorrow.  And I do think it's very, very powerful.  If you think of that geographic picture that I tried to paint with my probably inadequate words in my remarks tonight about what the view looks like when Australia is looking west, when India is looking out to Australia, bringing that together in a diplomatic and in a Defence sense in a Two‑Plus‑Two, what that says that the region about partners being able to work together, about the growth and development of the Australia‑India relationship, I think is very, very impactful and very strong.  So I'm looking forward to it a great deal tomorrow and it is something which I think is now firmly fixed in the Australia‑India annual agenda. 

Question: Thank you, Madam Minister.  I just had a quick question on China's trade coercive practices in recent times and it's been particularly aggressive on Australia over the last year and a half, two years, but Australia is not alone in this, at least in this part of the world, South Korea, Japan and others have had to bear the brunt of China's coercive trade practices, but at the same time none of these countries have backed down or bowing down to the China pressures.  Do you think it is time for a group of countries, maybe Quad or some other kind of grouping, to come together and take up these issues and call out Chinese bullying behaviour of this kind? 

Marise Payne: I have been in South Korea just a short few years ago and seen the impact of some of those actions on the South Korean economy and on the relationship. But again I would only speak for Australia and we have been very clear where we have experienced coercion that we believe is not justified, that we will use every tool available to us within the international system, including actions in the World Trade Organization, as we have taken, to address Australia's position.  We will also call those out and we have done so.  There are a number of unjustified actions, including that on Bali and particularly that on wine, both of which we have been quite public about and we'll continue to do so when it is in Australia's national interests.  I think in the case of our producers, who have been long‑term trusted and reliable partners for so many countries across the region, and including China, it's incumbent upon the Australian Government to make that clear and to take those actions in response to what we believe is unfair and coercive activity. 

Harsh V. Pant: Thank you, Madam Minister, it's been a long evening for you I know, and we have had the pleasure of listening to you for a very long time on various matters of interest, both to India and to Australia. I would just conclude with one question before I invite my colleague to say ‑‑

Marise Payne: Chair's prerogative I gather.

Harsh V. Pant: This is about, you know, you mentioned in your remarks about emerging technologies being the focal point of emerging geopolitical contestation, which is I think well‑understood both in Canberra and New Delhi. The sense, and there have been some calls earlier on from certain countries that, like‑minded countries, for example democracies should be working on their own sets of technologies, for example there was 5G which was talked about at one point in time where democracies can come together and develop certain technologies.  Is that how you see this debate evolving, is that the trajectory of this discussion, that we are looking at a world that is getting fractured and, you know, along those fractured lines we are going to see this debate on emerging technologies shaping our geopolitical environment? 

Marise Payne: We issued earlier this year a strategy, an international strategy on cyber and critical technologies, and I should give a shout out to Australia's Ambassador on Cyber and Critical Technologies, Dr Tobias Feakin, who has been a stalwart of this international debate both leading and engaging, particularly in our region, with countries which I think feel quite vulnerable in relation to these issues, countries which want to take up the opportunities that modern technology and in fact futuristic technology present but are cautious about doing so because they do feel the threat and the challenge that perhaps an inability to police and to regulate presents to them.  We work closely with a number of partners, particularly across the Pacific, some in Southeast Asia, on these issues.  I think we have to work hard, really hard, at staying together and not fracturing.  I think there's been quite good progress through the two UN level working groups which have the world's most unwieldy acronyms as their names, but a great deal of positive effort has been made in those to good outcomes.  We must keep doing that.  We cannot let go of this.  This is, as I said, the future competitive challenge but it is also intrinsically, inextricably our economic future as well.  So what's the choice?  Allowing fracturing to occur or actually buying in to this future and making sure that responsible like‑minded nations, who don't all have to be democracies, who don't all have to be vanilla, who don't all have to be the same, but who do have a shared and common purpose about the sort of international environments in which they want to live and work in the coming decades and centuries, must stay together.  Must continue to work together.  And countries like Australia and India have a real opportunity to put their arm around other countries on these issues, to put their arm around the like‑mindeds and to continue to do that. 

Harsh V. Pant: On that very positive note, Madam Foreign Minister, thank you so much for giving us your time this evening and it's been wonderful listening to your ideas on Indo‑Pacific, on India‑Australia relations which have gained strength, which have gone from strength to strength, and all the best for your Two‑Plus‑Two dialogue tomorrow. 

Let me now invite my colleague [indistinct] to offer a small token of our appreciation which he'll present to you.


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