By Haider Abbas
The ‘Holi’ round the corner came at a very opportune time as India had already been basking in the colours of G-20, despite no criticism of Russia over the war with Ukraine, that India took to redeem the bad-press, after a red-carpet was denied to the German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. It was clarified from the German ambassador , Philipp Ackermann to New Delhi, that there wasn’t such a case at all, and it happened due to ‘timings’ as she came-outside her plane, prior to her scheduled time. Diplomatic vibes indeed. ‘Holi’ is a festival of colours, celebrated as a victory of good over evil in India during the Spring time every year.
But, it cannot be denied that Annalena Baerbock along with Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto, had raked-the Kashmir issue, in October last year, as she had said that “Germany has a role and responsibility with regard to the situation of Kashmir. Therefore, we support intensively the engagement of the United Nations to find peaceful solutions in the region”. India had taken a strong note of it. Now, India, as a member of Quadrilateral Dialogue (QUAD) with US, Japan and Australia, took to celebrate ‘Holi’ with the PM of Australia Anthony Albanese, on his four-day visit to India by playing ‘Holi’ in Ahmedabad (Gujarat) on March 8. QUAD is primarily ranged against China.
Video grab of Australian PM Australia Anthony Albanese celebrating ‘Holi’
What matters here is that Australia has also decided to take-up the issue of ‘temples vandalism’ episodes in Australia as High Commissioner of Australia to India Barry O’Farrell has assured a probe into vandalism targeting Hindu temples in his country. The recent acts of vandalism targeting Hindu temples in Melbourne and Brisbane have “horrified” the citizens of his country, High Commissioner of Australia Barry O’Farrell while setting the stage for the visit of his Australian PM.
He assured ‘justice would be served in the cases of vandalism, and said his PM’s visit would provide a big boost to bilateral ties as both governments are in talks to upgrade the interim trade agreement to the level of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA),’ reported The Hindu 1 . “Australians are horrified of any vandalism of religious places of worship and police are very active to track down those who are responsible. Australia is a successful multicultural, multi-faith country. It respects freedom of speech but freedom of speech does not give you the right to engage in violent protest, hate speech or vandalism,” he said.
The interesting part of this visit is that in November last year, India and Australia had signed a free-trade agreement, which was quite historic as India for the first time had made an agreement with a ‘developed nation’ which came into force on December 29, 2023, reported The Economic Times 2. Both the nations had then signed an interim Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) and now are to carry it to the level of a “full Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). It is expected that India’s PM Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart are soon to sign a long-lasting trade-trade agreement.
This obviously will give a further boost to India inside QUAD as very soon, this meeting is to kick-start a series of bilateral and multilateral exchanges among the QUAD members. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s is to tour to New Delhi later this month, to be followed by QUAD summit being hosted by Australia. India therefore is playing its cards well as trade-agreement will bring Australia more closer, and no wonder, after QUAD, which is a non-security and non-military group, it may acquire the same status, or else India be placed into AUKUS, which is a security-group of Australia, US and UK.
India is also to engage into cricket-diplomacy as Australian cricket team is on a visit to India and both Narendra Modi and Anthony Albanese are to attend a cricket match at Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad, in which the coin-toss is to done by Narendra Modi. It is also speculated that the match-pitch will be ‘neutral -friendly’ and not ‘spin-friendly’ which is what the Indian cricket pitches are overtly known as (sic). India is now also to make a great stride as Australian PM had also given a ‘green signal’ to recognize ‘each-other’ degrees. The Australia-India Education Qualification Recognition Mechanism has been finalized.
This will give a great boost to students seeking specialized courses in Australia as well as pursue their professional careers there. Very soon, India might find a beeline of professionals making-way towards Australia! It may also be mentioned here that India is now also into a further boost as Russia, which has supplied India’s defense weaponry and subsidized oil, has now simplified the visa-regime for India. Only friendly nations to Russia could acquire it. Pakistan no where there-in for Russia. May be India, as a part of a balancing act may enter into a free-trade agreement with Russia too.
Meanwhile, India’s ‘Holi’ diplomacy has also given a great boost to India’s image world-wide as India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh can be seen dancing with US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo at his official residence.
The Swedish embassy in New Delhi also was found in ‘Holi’ festivities as well as Israel Ambassador to New Delhi Naor Gilon. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia embassy wishes Happy Holi too.
The season of ‘Holi’ in India has been ‘utilized well’ by India as now ‘Holi’ has been included as a part of diplomacy. If India, through Australia, is to play a part of a dominant partner in QUAD, then, AUKUS is not that far-away, as India is into facing a belligerent China. Australia and Japan are known foes and rivals to China. If India is to get into any tiff with China in the Himalayas, or becomes a part of US led coalition against China in South China Sea over Taiwan, India would find QUAD nations behind it. Russia, of course has long expressed its reservations towards India going in QUAD. AUKUS is therefore, quite understandably, now getting into India’s reach. Russia doesn’t matter?
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and writes on international politics.