“The answer to almost every question about China is India,” the former prime minister wrote in an op-ed published in The Australian.
“Although currently not as rich as China, as a democracy under the rule of law, and as the world’s second-largest producer of steel and pharmaceuticals, and with its own version of Silicon Valley, India is perfectly placed to substitute for China in global supply chains,” he added.
He also noted that with China becoming more belligerent by the day, it was in everyone’s interests that India take its rightful place among the nations as quickly as possible.
“And because trade deals are about politics as much as economics, a swift deal between India and Australia would be an important sign of the democratic world’s tilt away from China, as well as boosting the long-term prosperity of both our countries.”
Abbott is completing an official trade visit to India, where he is meeting with top political and business leaders to explore the expansion of trade and investment opportunities.
It follows a visit to the United Kingdom where the former prime minister also took a critical stance on Beijing and called on business leaders to show “character” and remove China from their supply chains.
Meanwhile, bilateral ties between Australia and India have grown in recent years, with both parties working towards finalising the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, which has been in negotiation for over a decade.
Japan, Australia, and India have also been progressing the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative to reduce reliance on Chinese supply chains.
These moves come amid Beijing’s continued belligerence in the Indo-Pacific region, which has strained ties with all three nations.
“India is already Australia’s second-largest (by far) source of foreign students, but this should be more of a two-way street,” Abbott wrote. “Australia could readily replace China as a key source of the rare earths and other strategic minerals that India will need, under Prime Minister Mahendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ program, if it’s to replace China as a source of manufactured inputs at scale.”
He added that with a spectacular infrastructure program now underway and sweeping privatisation, India should be considered a place Australian investment funds look towards for the stable return of secure long-term investment.
“If Australian business and officialdom were to make the same effort with India that they’ve long made with China, there’s potential for a ‘family’ relationship with India that was never likely with China, especially under the party-state,” Abbot wrote.