Australia responds to claims it betrayed Ukraine
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended a recently agreed trade agreement with India. Morrison said the decision to foster relations with a country that has refused to denounce Russia’s military campaign against Ukraine does not undermine Canberra’s support for Kiev.
The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement was signed by Australia’s trade minister, Dan Tehan, and India’s minister of commerce and industry, Piyush Goyal, on Saturday afternoon, in a virtual ceremony witnessed by the prime ministers of both countries, Morrison and Narendra Modi.
The accord, among other things, cuts tariffs on a range of Australian exports to India, including coal, lentils, lobsters, and rare earths. The Morrison government hailed the deal as a significant milestone in diversifying Australia’s export markets and reducing its dependence on China.
The signing of the agreement comes less than 24 hours after the Indian prime minister received Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in New Delhi. India has so far refused to unequivocally condemn Russia’s military offensive against Ukraine, opting to merely call for an end to the violence. In early March, New Delhi abstained from a UN resolution condemning Russia’s “aggression.” Weeks later, however, on March 24, India also abstained from a UN resolution proposed by Russia.
Commenting on the Australia-India accord in Tasmania on Saturday, Morrison insisted that the newly signed document “is a sensible and great deal in Australia’s interests and in India’s interests,” adding that he did not think “anyone can question Australia’s commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine.”
The trade deal will “open one of the biggest economic doors there is to open in the world today,” the prime minister said. According to Morrison, closer ties will allow Canberra and New Delhi to discuss various issues “within that relationship, respectfully.”
On Wednesday, Trade Minister Tehan reminded New Delhi that it’s important for democracies to work together “to keep the rules-based approach that we’ve had since the second world war.” His statement echoed that of US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo made the same day, with both Washington and Canberra expressing concern over India’s willingness to conduct trade with Russia in their own national currencies – something the West sees as a ploy by Moscow to circumvent the sanctions imposed on it over the past month.
Australia is among the many nations that have placed punitive measures on Russia over its military campaign against Ukraine. On top of that, Canberra has recently agreed to provide Kiev with armored vehicles and other equipment.