"What is clear is that as far afield as Australia might have sometimes cast its strategic gaze, its critical interests always have been -- and increasingly are -- closer to home."Long neglected, India will play an increasingly important role for Australia: as a growing trade partner, as a counterbalance to China and as a valuable partner in maintaining the security of the Indian Ocean. Australia and India share broad political values and can have a potentially more comfortable relationship than some others. More immediately, last year Foreign Minister Bob Carr tried to scotch rumours of a possible alliance between Australia and Indonesia, only highlighting such that the idea had been floated in Canberra. Carr correctly noted that such an alliance is not being considered in Jakarta, and it would be a political hot potato in Australia. However, as East Timor moves closer to Indonesia and Australia seeks to ensure longer term stability in East Timor -- as well as continue strong relations with Indonesia -- there is some scope for a sub-alliance treaty between the three countries. Such an alliance would make explicit Australia's commitment to East Timor as well as help cement relations between East Timor and Indonesia. Australia's relationship with Indonesia is currently very good but has had a troubled history and may again become strained. A closer strategic relationship, leavened by East Timor’s inclusion, might provide further "ballast" to the relationship. Australia's engagement with Indonesia’s notorious special forces, Kopassus, has been a good example of Australia's strategic reasoning and rhetoric not matching. Military links are important, but this relationship has not successfully imparted human rights or "professional" values to the Indonesian army. But a careful re-ordering of such engagement within a wider context might add some benefit in desired areas while reducing contributions to less benign aspects. What is clear is that as far afield as Australia might have sometimes cast its strategic gaze, its critical interests always have been -- and increasingly are -- closer to home. That this now fits with the US's focus will therefore see this confluence of interests reflected this year in Australia's rapid strategic reorientation. Professor Damien Kingsbury is Director of the Centre for Citizenship, Development and Human Rights at Deakin University.
Australia casts strategic gaze to Indonesia, India
As far afield as Australia might have cast its gaze, its critical interests always have been -- and increasingly are -- closer to home. Crikey's international affairs expert examines our place in the world in 2013.