External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Monday that he had held broad-ranging discussions on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and its repercussions on the Indo-Pacific region with his Australian counterpart Penny Wong.
Jaishankar made the remarks addressing a press conference along with Wong after both ministers held the 13th India-Australia Foreign Ministers’
Framework Dialogue (FMFD). “We discussed Ukraine and its repercussions in the Indo-Pacific region, the progress in Quad, G-20 issues, our trilateral, some things related to IAEA and climate finance sustainable development goals,” EAM Jaishankar said.
He said the discussions held were underpinned by the fact that “as liberal democracies, we both believe in the rules-based international order, in freedom of navigation in the international waters, in promoting growth connectivity and security of all and ensuring that countries make sovereign choices in matters that are important today.”
As the chair of G20 next year, Australia’s views and interests will be very important, he said. He expressed gratitude to Australia for joining India in celebrating the 75th anniversary of India’s independence by decorating Australia’s iconic sites.
Jaishankar said the talks were held about bilateral issues to see how India and Australia can shape a better region. “We spoke about a whole lot of issues — trade, economy, education, defence and security, clean energy and among the many agreements and understandings we reached. It is in our mutual interest to expand the diplomatic footprint in each other’s country.”
“There are some issues in which we see great potential in terms of giving a greater quality to our bilateral partnership,” he added.
First, Jaishankar said is the proposal that has been under discussion — “an understanding on the mobility of talent and skills and how we can grow education and what we could do bearing in mind India’s new education policy.”
He said the other was the progress in the economic cooperation and trade agreement finalized earlier this year. “Steps are being taken to amend the double taxation avoidance agreement because that was a challenge to growing our business.”
Meanwhile, Penny Wong said, “India and Australia are comprehensive strategic partners. We are Quad partners. We partner in many other ways.”
India and Australia recognise that the Indo-Pacific region is being reshaped and it is in the interest of both nations to navigate through this together, Wong said.
“Most fundamentally, we share a region, the Indio-Pacific region. We got a shared interest and shared ambition which is our region being stable, prosperous and respectable of sovereignty and where countries are not required to choose sides but make their own sovereign choices,” the minister said.
Wong said both India and Australia “don’t want to see any country dominating and any country being dominated.”
“We both recognize that our region is being reshaped both economically and strategically. Our partnership is a demonstration that we understand that this period of change is best navigated together,” she added.
Underlining the importance of partnership with India, Wong said, “For Australia, this partnership (India), is a critical part of shaping the region we want.”
She said both countries have agreed to continue to deepen the relationship, including the diplomatic footprint in each other’s country. “We are looking to open a consulate general in Bengaluru, in the heart of India’s technology industry sometime next year,” she added.
Jaishankar arrived in Canberra on Monday “to a Tiranga welcome”. He will hold talks with the top leadership of Australia to further enhance bilateral cooperation.
“Arrived in Canberra to a Tiranga welcome. So happy to see the old Parliament House of Australia in our national colours,” Jaishankar tweeted. He will also be visiting Sydney.
It is EAM’s second visit to Australia this year, the first was in February 2022 to attend the Quad Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Melbourne. The external affairs minister will also be meeting the Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Richard Marles.