Tuesday, May 30, 2023

India and Australia Pledge To Strengthen Bilateral Trade, Military, Economic, and Diplomatic Ties

India and Australia Pledge To Strengthen Bilateral Trade, Military, Economic, and Diplomatic Ties

In a visit to Canberra, Indian EAM S.Jaishankar met with Australian counterpart Hon Penny Wong and agreed to expand their bilateral diplomatic partnership by opening new consulates in the two countries.

Australian Foreign Minister Hon Penny Wong (R) with Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar
Australian Foreign Minister Hon Penny Wong (R) with Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar Source: Twitter

Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar engaged with his Australian counterpart Hon Penny Wong in Canberra on Monday under the 13th Foreign Ministers' Framework Dialogue  and the duo agreed to deepen their bilateral diplomatic ties by opening new consulates in each other's countries. 

In a joint press conference, Wong said "We're looking forward to opening a Consulate General for Australia in Bengaluru in the heart of India's technology industry sometime next year, and we look forward to Dr Jaishankar being able to finalise an additional presence here in Australia." 

There are presently 3 Australian Consulate-General in India (Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata). and on the other hand, India has 4 Consulates-General in Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane). 

The two leaders also discussed a host of issues of mutual interest covering trade and investment ties, security alliances, shared interests at international fora, as well as the eight-month long Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Trade: Free Trade Agreement and DTAA

Speaking to the press, Jaishankar remarked that India is "very very encouraged" to see that the economic cooperation and trade agreement that was finalised earlier this year is moving towards its ratification and entry into force and that's a very good development.
"We also note that steps are being taken to amend the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) because that was also a bit of a challenge to growing our business. And then we really looked at areas like critical minerals, cyber, new and renewable energy," Jaishankar added in his opening comments.

Partnership in the Indo-Pacific

Responding to a question on the naval presence of countries in the Indian Ocean, Jaishankar said, "I think it's important to appreciate that a naval presence that strengthens safety and security and contributes to prosperity and progress in a region by definition is an asset to the to the to the strategic scenario of that region."
"When I look at my own Navy, other than securing our national security, we have over some years now developed a reputation rightly for being a first responder. We have been available when natural disasters strike when COVID problems happen when different countries get into difficulties of various kinds. So I think a lot of it is really what is the intent, what is the messaging? What are the behavioural characteristics, and how transparent you have been? I think these are all factors when any country assesses the presence of any other country's naval forces," he added.

India’s stance on the AUKUS security alliance

On a question about what position Australia would seek from India on AUKUS, Wong said,"Australia is seeking to replace a necessary capability. Australia has no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons. We remain compliant with the NPT. We have an impeccable record when it comes to compliance with the NPT, and we are working through and will work through with the IAEA to ensure that that record stands with full transparency, and that was what we indicated very clearly to the conference."

The AUKUS (Australia, the UK and the US) security partnership announced in September by the US last that it would facilitate Australia getting technology to build nuclear-powered submarines.

China argued that this initiative was in violation of their responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It also criticised the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on this. But later on October 1, Beijing withdrew a draft resolution at the IAEA against the AUKUS grouping seeking to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines following India's objections. 

Strategic partnership

India and Australia have a strategic bilateral partnership and the two nations hold membership of multilateral groupings including the QUAD, G20, ASEAN Regional Forum, Commonwealth, Asia Pacific Partnership on Climate and Clean Development etc. The two ministers reviewed progress on their cooperation in these bodies and discussed nuclear nonproliferation, climate finance, and sustainable development goals. 

Following his interactions with Wong, Jaishankar also met Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles and Education Minister Jason Clare. 

(With inputs from PTI)