Prior to Independence, the present 53-member-strong Commonwealth was wholly a White body and considered itself to be an exclusive club, with its own privileges. When India became Independent and decided to join it, the racial feelings towards India were noticeable. In published pictures of the heads of Commonwealth States Jawaharlal Nehru stood at the far end of his White colleagues, almost as an intruder.
Today India has far outdone Canada and Australia and South Africa and is on its way to outdo Britain itself as a world power, especially if it succumbs to Scottish separatism. Australia doesn’t seem to make up its mind on how to deal with its northern neighbour in the Indian Ocean. As India’s economy and population surge, Canberra does not seem to understand how to figure out its diplomatic relations with Delhi. As a result of economic growth, India’s thirst for energy is increasing almost exponentially. Dr Anul Kakodkar, former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission is reported as saying that “only the nuclear and solar power can meet India’s mammoth requirements if it is to emerge as an economic power.”
There is a growing belief in western circles that by 2033 India and China could grow by 7.4 per cent to 10 per cent in GDP with a combined output of 56 trillion US dollars. Today the scenario is such that compared to advanced countries, we are 14 to 15 times behind. The average per capita electricity production in industrially advanced countries is around 10,000 units whereas it is around 800 units per person in India. The Planning Commission has set up a target of adding over 88,000 MW of power generation capacity in the 12th 5-year plan (2012-17) and this is where Australia comes in the picture. As recently as the 1970s, Australia and India rubbed each other up the wrong way on practically every issue on which their interests coincided. Bilateral trade had slumped to less than 1 per cent of each other’s total trade. Indeed need coal, uranium and gas and wants to improve its diplomatic relations with Australia which has a strong relationship with China and in terms of security would like to look up to Washington rather than to London. What Australia intends vis-à-vis uranium sale to India was stated in fairly clear terms during its Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s four-day visit to Delhi earlier in November 2013.
In this regard one has to regard Indo-Australian relations has had several ups and downs that had befogged the mutual relations between the two countries. One can only hope these relations will be on the rise in the days to come. On India’s part the expectations are great not only because of increasing trade and commerce, but of a feeling of shared values both being members of the Commonwealth. With as a high population of 1.2 billion, India relies on nuclear fuel for about 40 per cent of its energy needs and … plans to build 30 reactors in the next two years.
According to media reports by 2050 India expects to rely on nuclear fuel for a quarter of its energy supplies. Understandably India has to look for uranium wherever it is available, whether it is in Central Asia or West Africa. That does not mean India will become totally nuclear-centric.
Solar energy is still a far-away dream though the country has advanced significantly in this field with current production of more than 1,800 MW with the national goal targeted at 20,000 MW by 2017.
The more India relies on pollution-free sources like solar energy, the lesser will be its dependability on nuclear power and even on fossil fuel sources like coal, natural gas and diesel.
As a matter of fact India is now in the top six countries of the world in terms of installed capacity. But we will also look out for other available sources and that we are doing openly in discussions with countries in Central Asia and even Africa, not to mention Iran. Vietnam, for instance, has reiterated its resolve to remain involved in oil exploration in the Phu Kanh basin of South China Sea claiming its right to invite India to explore oil in this area.
India is similarly engaged in discussions and improved diplomatic relations with MENA (Middle East and North African) countries for getting more and better access to energy sources. It is pursuing a strategy of bilateral promotions with these countries to mutual benefit in the areas of technical transfer, R&D, etc with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries’ commitment to industrialisation and economic transformation.
But Austrlia still continues to top the list of India’s continued interests for a variety of reasons. As the media noted, even as Julia Bishop was in India, the dynamic Indian diaspora in Australia hosted a regional Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas event in Sydney to make the contribution that people-to-people ties are making to diplomacy. India, it is now noticed, has consistently become one of Australia’s top five export markets with a focus on education and energy. More than 30,000 people in today’s Australia are India-born and they are adding greatly to Australia’s prosperity and resilience.
If India has something to gain from Australia, surely, the reverse is also true. Australia also will have much to gain from India and the quicker it is noticed and acted upon the better it will be for both nations.