Mining Magnate Calls for Australia to ‘Work Harder’ to Develop Its Trade Relationship With India

Mining Magnate Calls for Australia to ‘Work Harder’ to Develop Its Trade Relationship With India
Gina Rinehart is the Executive Chairman of Hancock Prospecting, a privately-owned mineral exploration and extraction company founded by her father, Lang Hancock, in Australia on Dec. 1, 2022. (Courtesy of Hancock Prospecting)
Henry Jom

Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart has described Australia’s trading potential with India as “huge” as she calls on the country to “work harder” on developing closer trade ties with the world’s largest democracy.

During a meeting on May 23, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted to Rinehart the reforms and initiatives being undertaken in India and also invited the mining magnate to partner in technology, investment, and skills in the mining and minerals sectors, according to a statement by India’s Ministry of External Affairs.

“It was a very interesting and exciting meeting with Prime Minister Modi, who I have met with several times in the past, in both Australia and New Delhi,” she told media after the meeting.

“The potential for our two countries is huge.

“You just need to look at the investment that has flowed to India from about 60 different countries under Prime Minister (Modi).

“Australia really needs to work harder to develop its relations with India.”

Rinehart—who is the executive chairman of the highly successful Hancock Prospecting, a privately owned mineral exploration and extraction company, and is worth an estimated $37.4 billion (US$24.3 billion)—commented on India’s growing economy, which has seen the country’s GDP grow from US$1 trillion to US$3.5 trillion in just five years, with plans “in place now” for the economy to grow to US$32 trillion in the next 25 years.

“The growth in the future is going to be huge,”  Rinehart said.

She also spoke of Modi’s “terribly important mantra,” which she described as “from red tap to red carpet.”

“In other words, cut approvals, cut regulations, so you can welcome investment,” Rinehart said.

“And that’s what he’s done, and that’s what he wants to do for his country.”

The comments from Rinehart follow her recent urging for the Australian federal government to reduce regulations for the mining industry so that the country’s natural minerals and resources can be better utilised to provide security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

“India wants to double its steel production by 2030, meaning Australia should ramp up our critical metallurgical coal exports to help our ally,” Rinehart said on May 16.

Modi’s Visit Receives Bipartisan Support

During a stadium visit at Olympic Park in Sydney on May 23, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australia and India have “a rich friendship” and “a very affectionate sporting rivalry.”

“We are both part of a growing, dynamic region, and Prime Minister Modi is a very welcome visitor to our shores,” Albanese said.

This comes after Albanese’s visit to India in March, where he declared India a “top-tier” defence partner.

“Australia and India share a commitment to a stable, secure, and prosperous Indo-Pacific. Together, we have an important role to play in supporting this vision,” Albanese said in a statement.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Peter Dutton described the Indian prime minister as a “great friend” of Australia and was proud that the relations between both countries were growing.

“Wonderful to catch up again with a great friend of Australia, @narendramodi. Proud of the special and growing relationship Australia has with India, and may it go from strength to strength in the years ahead,” Dutton wrote in a tweet.

Additionally, India’s Ministry of External Affairs wrote in a tweet that the prime minister appreciated the “strong bipartisan support that our partnership enjoys.”
“Also discussed various aspects of bilateral ties, including people-to-people linkages as well as regional developments.”

Australia–India Relationship

India’s growing diplomatic relationship with the United States has been integral to the reshaping of the Australia–India relationship, according to Manoj Joshi, a Distinguished Fellow at New Delhi’s Observer Research Foundation, reported the Voice Of America (VOA).

This is in contrast to the relationship previously when India rejected the Australian Navy’s role in the Exercise Malabar military drill, which Australia was allowed to attend only as an observer.

But the relationship between Australia and India has grown since 2020, when Australia was invited to join the annual naval Malabar exercises that India conducts with the United States and Japan.

Moreover, Australia, along with India, the United States, and Japan, are part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad), which seeks to counter Beijing’s efforts to dominate the Indo-Pacific.

Further, trade sanctions by Beijing on Australian products have prompted calls for Australia to diversify its trading markets, following calls for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19 by then-PM Scott Morrison.

In 2022, Australia and India signed a Free Trade Agreement known as the Economic Cooperation Trade Agreement (ECTA), under which tariffs were removed from more than 85 percent of Australian exports and from 96 percent of Indian imports.

Trade, investment, defence, education, and supply chains of critical minerals are important aspects of the relationship between the two countries, former Indian high commissioner to Australia Navdeep Suri said.

Additionally, bilateral trade accounted for US$27.5 billion in 2021. Under ECTA, there is potential for bilateral trade to reach US$50 billion in five years.

India imports 50 million tonnes of Australian coal per year, accounting for 80 percent of Indian coal imports.

Henry Jom is an Australian-based reporter who focuses on Australian and health-related news. He has a bachelor's in health science, specialising in rehabilitation, and is currently completing a postgraduate degree in law. Henry can be contacted at [email protected]