Address to the 6th Raisina Dialogue

15 Apr 2021
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER SCOTT MORRISON: Namaste. Greetings from here in Australia, in Perth, in Western Australia, our great minerals and resources state.

I'm very pleased today to be joining you to open this third day of the Raisina Dialogue. I'm delighted to be part of this event, joining other Australian speakers, including my Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, the chief of our Australian defence forces, General Angus Campbell, and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a great friend of India.

I congratulate my good friend, Prime Minister Modi and Minister for External Affairs, Dr. Jaishankar, for initiating this dialogue. Thank you for your leadership at this critical time. In the midst of the most difficult year and three quarters of a century, we know how important this dialogue is and very pleased to participate. I only wish I could have been there with you in person.

We are free peoples, liberal democracies with respect and responsibility, aspiration, the dignity of our people at the heart of who we are as democratic nations. We've been friends a long time, Australia and India. We have so much in common, our values, our passions, especially for our democratic freedoms, our commitment to the rule of law, a free and open Indo-Pacific. And over the last two decades, we've realised more and more of the enormous potential of our friendship.

We've shown what can be achieved when two diverse, pluralistic, multicultural democracies join in a spirit of trust and understanding. Our economic, defence and people-to-people ties have grown strongly.

India and Australia share a deep friendship, or as you say in India: Maitri. I'm told that's India's version of Australia's mateship. The ability of men and women to work side by side, trusting each other. That trust, that shared sense of mission and purpose is what we will need so much in the years ahead.

I want to talk today about what it is about our region, about the Indo-Pacific, where we live, and the challenges that we face together. How the COVID-19 pandemic has created momentum for addressing these challenges amongst like-minded nations.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Indo-Pacific is the region that will shape our prosperity, our security and our destiny, individually and collectively. That is our shared future.

It is a dynamic and diverse region full of promise. But we're also not blind to the geopolitical realities. The Indo-Pacific is the epicentre of strategic competition. Tensions over territorial claims are growing. Military modernisation is happening at an unprecedented rate. Democratic sovereign nations are being threatened and coerced by foreign interference. Cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated, including from state sponsored actors, and frequent. Economic coercion is being employed as a tool of statecraft. Liberal rules and norms are under assault. And there is a great polarisation that our world is at risk of moving towards. A polarisation between authoritarian regimes and autocracies, and the liberal democracies that we love. A liberal democracy and a liberal set of values that underpin the global world order that has delivered so much for the world.

The pandemic has accelerated and accentuated many of the strategic trends that have created this very real strain. However, the pandemic has also given us a fresh perspective and created new opportunities to build a durable strategic balance in the Indo-Pacific.

A strategic balance, as Condoleezza Rice says, that favours freedom. One where like minded nations act more consistently, more cohesively, more often, in our shared interests, on economic security and importantly global environmental issues. And guided by rules based solutions that ensure peace and stability and prosperity for all nations. It's an inclusive notion to achieve our common goals. The pandemic prompted new groupings of like-minded countries to work together like never before. New friendships forged and old ones reenergized. Australia is leading in this area, as is India. We're playing our part together.

Australia has always been direct about our aspirations. It's our nature. We know who we are and we know what we're about. We've been clear about our vision of a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific underpinned by rules of law and respect for sovereignty. And we have acted to defend and shape it.

Last year we launched our Defence Strategic Update, a major strengthening of our force posture to focus on our immediate region. Australia has committed some $270 billion on our defence capability over the next decade. For us, that's two per cent of our GDP. That's our floor, not our ceiling. Other nations know they can rely on Australia.

This is important as we look ahead towards challenges that no country can take on alone. That is what I told the Quad leaders meeting last month when I joined with Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Suga and President Biden. And I particularly commend my fellow leaders for their involvement and leadership in bringing this forum together at that level. And I particularly say thank you to President Biden for bringing that meeting together and chairing it on that occasion. That meeting was historic, an historic first and a mark of the momentum that continues to be built amongst like-minded countries in our region.

Four leaders of great liberal democracies in the Indo-Pacific, including, of course, my friend, Prime Minister Modi, all leveraging our agency, working on a positive and inclusive agenda for the Indo-Pacific. To deliver peace and stability and prosperity for the shared benefit of all in our region. Their sovereignty, their independence we passionately believe in for all nations within the Indo-Pacific. We pledged to strengthen our cooperation on the defining challenges of our time. Realising a shared vision as expressed through ASEAN for an open, inclusive and resilient region. And to combat COVID-19, combining our significant medical, scientific, financing and manufacturing capabilities for vaccine distribution.

We're building new habits and modes of cooperation and partnership, that's important. And Australia has continued to invest in the relationships in the Indo-Pacific. Our partnership with our great friend and ally, the United States, continues to strengthen as we mark 70 years of our ANZUS alliance later this year. We've announced an in principle agreement with Japan on a Reciprocal Access Agreement, a landmark treaty that will see even closer defence and security ties. And I thank my dear friend, Yoshihide Suga, Prime Minister Suga, for the great relationship we've been able to establish so quickly. He is a man committed to peace and prosperity in our region.

We've been working more closely than ever with ASEAN as its oldest dialogue partner, and also enhanced our relationships with Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, all key partners. We continue to strengthen ties with our Pacific family through our Step Up program with additional support during the pandemic, particularly at the moment for Papua New Guinea and for Timor-Leste.

And there is our relationship with India. Australia sees India as such a natural partner in shaping the future of our region. It's way more than geography. Its history, its values. It's our growing economic, security and people-to-people ties. It's our strong sense of mutual obligation and responsibility. In India I know we have a friend who will help build our region where all nations can prosper. We have looked on with admiration as in recent times, India has taken an increasingly active role in the Indian Ocean and the wider Indo-Pacific region. In particular, most recently, we've seen their leadership with the manufacturing and distribution of critical vaccines, helping developing countries in our region. They're building economic capability. They're promoting maritime security, and they're advocating regional cooperation.

We welcome your leadership, Prime Minister Modi, and we welcome India's leadership and engagement. Whether it's on the outstanding vaccines that are necessary and the Maitri campaign that you've engaged in, which has seen over 64 million Indian-made vaccines shipped to more than 80 countries, as I was already referring to. Last June, Prime Minister Modi and I took our relationship to a new level, a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. This is a declaration of our shared values and interests, our capabilities and the deep trust we have for each other. It will see us cooperate in new ways – commerce, critical minerals, science and research, technology, as well as defence, maritime and cyber and critical technology issues.

And we're already seeing this. In November, Australia participated in Exercise MALABAR. It saw our navies, along with Japan and the United States, work together in highly sophisticated training exercises from air defence and anti submarine exercises to at sea replenishment between ships.

This tells a broader story for Australia and India. A story of deep trust, shared ambition and a united commitment to keeping our region safe and secure. Australia is looking forward to working closely with India on emerging issues such as harnessing opportunities through our Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership, and we continue exploring ways to further deepen our economic relationship.

Our region confronts some formidable challenges, and the pandemic has sparked a renewed appreciation amongst like-minded nations for each other and what we both can contribute, all of us can contribute, to our partnerships and to our region. For the values and goals we share and what we can achieve by working together. It has inspired action to defend our collective interests. Together, we carry the aspirations for the future. A region stable, a region prosperous with healthy people and a clean environment. We will continue to work together to achieve those goals, and we will gather again together soon.

I want to thank you for your kind invitation to be part of this important dialogue. Dhanyavaad.

To all of you, thank you for the great relationship we have, and as we work together to secure the peace and prosperity of our region.

A free and open Indo-Pacific, a strategic balance that favours freedom.

Thank you for your attention.