The virtual bilateral summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison Wednesday is a big deal. Not just because it is perhaps the first virtual summit of its kind, nor because it demonstrates the determination to ‘meet’ despite the international travel restrictions. It is important because it takes place at a time when both countries find themselves under attack from the belligerent dragon — China.For India, the ‘Wuhan spirit’ or the bonhomie after the informal summit between President Xi Jinping and PM Modi in 2018 has been wiped out by the virus from Wuhan, along with China’s agressive stand on Ladakh.
For Australia, its thriving economic diasora and ethos with China has been hit by sanctions on beef and barley exports because of ostensibly a retaliation to Canberra having had the temerity to ask for an independent inquiry into the origins of the novel coronavirus. Morrison responded to Chinese bluster and bullying by replying firmly that Australia won’t trade away its values.
For Prime Minister Morrison, standing up to China is becoming familiar territory. As treasury secretary in 2015, he had to strengthen his country’s foreign investment review process after the Northern Territories government signed a 99-year lease agreement for the strategic port of Darwin with a Chinese company that has links with the People‘s Liberation Army. He then had to invoke the new provisions twice in 2016 — to block the sale of Australia’s largest cattle business, S Kidman’s 100,000 square kilometres of land holdings to a Chinese consortium, and to prevent a state-owned Chinese company from buying a controlling stake in power distribution company “Aus grid”, which also manages critical communications infrastructure. Later, as the home minister, he had to invoke national security provisions to keep Huawei out of Australia’s 5G infrastructure.
Over the last few years, China’s influence on operations in Australia have grown to a point where the country feels that its institutions and its values are under a coordinated and relentless attack. Chinese-Australian tycoons have attempted to bribe gullible politicians; Chinese community leaders are mobilized to rally support for Beijing’s position on the South China Sea; Chinese students on university campuses have clashed with others over developments in Hong Kong, cyber security attacks have targeted Australian research institutions and even the Australian parliament. The list is endless. Therefore due to this massive amount of tension between the two countries both of these countries can be of use to each other by using each others resources and supporting each other at the time of their need so as by making a very powerful presence in the Asia-Oceania territories.