Australia’s New Envoy to India: Peter Varghese
Peter Varghese, 53, a distinguished Australian diplomat and former senior advisor to ex-Prime Minister John Howard, has been appointed Australian High Commissioner to India. He is due to take charge in August from John McCarthy, a distinguished and popular diplomat, who completes his five-year term in India.
Varghese brings with him vast experience in current international developments. I strongly recommend his insightful 2006 presentation on Islamist Terrorism: The International Context. Please click here to read his full speech…
An ethnic Malayalee, Peter Joseph Noozhumurry Varghese was born in Kenya to Indian parents, and emigrated to Australia as a child. His appointment comes at a sensitive time when the diplomatic relations between India and Australia have come under a strain following increase in attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney.
In making the announcement, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Australia’s engagement with India was expanding rapidly in recognition of the country’s growing economic and strategic importance and influence. India is also Australia’s fastest growing export market with energy and minerals the main drivers.
Varghese was appointed as the Director-General of the Office of National Assessments (ONA) on 12 January 2004. ONA reports directly to the Prime Minister and is responsible for advising the Government on international political, strategic and economic developments affecting Australia’s national interests.
“The ONA is not a producer of intelligence; it collates intelligence data. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is the primary consumer of these products, which are designed to assist the Australian Government in strategic decision making and ensure that government is fully briefed on emergent threats both in the region and globally.
“Its independence from the Defence and Foreign Affairs portfolios is a deliberate attempt to generate balanced and fair analysis.” More here…
In 2006, Varghese presented an interesting paper on “Islamist Terrorism: The International Context”. He wrote: “The terrorist threat today is best understood as a network of networks. But most often the links are informal, based on personal contacts. Surprising to some as it may seem, Al Qaida does not exercise command and control over this extensive network.
“Consequently terrorists co-operate with each other at a variety of levels. This co-operation may not be ‘official’, and it is certainly not part of a giant global plot directed from a cave somewhere on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“Ad hoc cells are formed for particular operations. A terrorist ‘entrepreneur’ with good access to financial donors can supply money. Cells or individual facilitators can provide others with documents or at least with the knowledge of where they can acquire them. A more experienced group can provide a trained bomb-maker to a cell that has a plan but not the technical expertise to carry it out. Veterans can vouch for new recruits to get them into training camps.
“This amorphous structure can make it extremely difficult to determine who was responsible for an attack and how it was carried out. After a major attack such as Madrid or London, the automatic question is ‘Was Al Qaida responsible?’
“It all depends on what you mean by ‘Al Qaida’ and by ‘responsible’. Certainly Al Qaida’s ideology and its record of attacks may have provided inspiration, but beyond that, the direct fingerprints are harder to find.
“Because of the nature of this network of networks, it is always possible to find intriguing personal links back to core Al Qaida — such links do not necessarily mean direct command and control. More importantly no direct Al Qaida involvement — for either planning or finances or other help — is needed to carry out successful attacks.” More here…
The Australian foreign minister said: “Australia is committed to taking its relationship with India to the front rank of Australia’s bilateral partnerships. India is Australia’s fastest growing export market, with energy and minerals resources the main drivers behind this growth.
“In 2007-08, India was Australia’s eleventh-largest trading partner, with total trade standing at almost $14 billion. In 2008, India was our fourth-biggest merchandise
“The current Joint Australia-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Study is exploring the scope for building an even stronger bilateral trade and economic relationship through an FTA. Traditional strengths in the trade relationship are being complemented by new areas, most notably services such as education.
“Australia and India also engage closely on strategic and defence matters. Our defence forces engage in joint exercises, particularly, but not only, maritime exercises. Military engagement occurs across the full range of activities, including ship visits, service-to-service level talks, professional exchanges, and research and development collaboration.
“In 2008 Australia and India decided to step up strategic cooperation by holding annual talks between the chiefs of our defence forces, and by strengthening intelligence and counter-terrorism cooperation.
“The relationship is gaining depth in many other areas. An Economic Policy Dialogue has been established, and Australia and India have good bilateral engagement on climate change issues, in particular through the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.
“Australia and India share interests in the stability and economic
development of the Asia-Pacific region, and in multilateral cooperation through regional groupings such as the East Asia Summit, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the World Trade Organisation, the Commonwealth and the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation.
“The Government’s renewed engagement with India is demonstrated by the increased tempo of Ministerial visits and is underpinned by a series of annual, high-level dialogues and Joint Working Groups on a range of issues that complement the broader policy dialogues.
“The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund, Australia’s largest bilateral scientific research fund, has fostered increasingly close collaboration between Australian and Indian scientists.”