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India, Australia call for inclusive govt. in Afghanistan; freedom of navigation

The two sides discussed a range of issues, particularly the increasing bilateral defence cooperation.

SNS | New Delhi |

India and Australia today called for an inclusive government in Afghanistan that would not allow the war-torn nation to again become a breeding ground for terrorists as the two countries decided to intensify defence and security cooperation and work together for ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

The two countries held their first ‘2+2’ ministerial dialogue in New Delhi at which External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh led the Indian side while Australia was represented by Foreign Minister Marise Payne Defence Minister Peter Dutton. The two sides discussed a range of issues, particularly the increasing bilateral defence cooperation. China’s behaviour on high seas is also understood to have figured prominently during the talks.

Addressing a press conference after the dialogue, The Indian foreign minister said the two sides held in-depth talks on the situation in Afghanistan in the wake of its takeover by the Taliban. The two countries were of the firm view that the soil of Afghanistan must not be allowed to be used by anyone in any manner for terrorist activities. He said the new government in Afghanistan must be inclusive which should pay attention to the condition of women and children. It should also allow humanitarian assistance to reach to the people of the embattled country.

Payne said Australia was acutely conscious of what happened the last time Afghanistan was under Taliban rule, and that any deterioration in the humanitarian or security situation there could have significant implications for regional and international security, including terrorism. She said Afghanistan must provide safe passage to foreigners who wish to leave the country.

On India-Australia cooperation, both Rajnath Singh and his Australian counterpart Dutton said their two countries desired a rules-based international order, freedom of navigation in international waters and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states. ”We are committed to a strong partnership with India. Our desire is to see peace and prosperity in the region. Neither Australia nor India is aggressive…we stand for our value,” the Australian minister said without directly attacking China which has lately become very aggressive on maritime issues.

Jaishankar said that as members of the Quad, India and Australia recognized the importance of plurilateralism in a multi-polar and re-balanced world. ”We appreciate the value of our trilaterals with Japan, France and Indonesia and will hold these dialogues soon,” he added.

He said he had also specifically taken up with minister Payne the problems faced by Indian students in Australia and those wishing to go to Australia as well as the Indian origin community that was resident there. ”I urged that the difficulties faced by the students due to travel restrictions be sympathetically addressed as soon as possible.”