Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton issued a joint press statement at the Science Building in New Delhi on Friday. (ANI photo)
NEW DELHI: India and Australia on Friday decided to work towards a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific Ocean to further consolidate their defense ties and curb China’s aggressive behavior, as well as the threat posed by terrorism on the Taliban-controlled border in controlled Afghanistan.
Ahead of the first-ever “two-plus-two” ministerial-level dialogue between the two countries on Saturday, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and his Australian counterpart Peter Dutton said the delegation would take the bilateral defense and security partnership “to a higher level” – level talks.
This growing strategic expression will be reflected in the expansion of military exchanges, war games and mutual logistical support between the two countries, as well as strengthening cooperation in maritime security, intelligence-sharing and emerging defense technologies.
The two ministers discussed the deteriorating human rights situation in Afghanistan, where violations against women, children and minorities have occurred in landlocked countries. “Australia has also shared India’s concerns that terrorism on the border from Afghanistan will negatively affect other countries in the region,” a source said.
Both sides stressed that the international community must do everything possible to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2593, which claims that Afghan territory should not be used for terrorism and that the Taliban should be provided with an inclusive government with respect for human rights.
After the meeting, which lasted for more than an hour, Singh said, “We are both keen to work together to realize the full potential of the India-Australia ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ (raised to this level in June 2020).” This partnership is based on our shared vision of a free, open, inclusive and rule-based Indo-Pacific region.
“Both Australia and India have a huge role to play in peace, development and free flow of trade, rule of law and economic growth in the region. India is committed to building a strong partnership with Australia for the security and growth of the entire region, ”he said, inviting the Australian industry to take advantage of India’s liberalized foreign direct investment policy in the defense manufacturing sector.
Dutton countered that India’s leadership is at the heart of Australia’s Indo-Pacific strategy, and that it is in the “sovereign interest” of the two countries to combine their strategy, power and resources.
Australia has agreed to “enhance its position” through maritime engagement and exercises, enhancing mutual understanding between the two air forces in the Indian Ocean region, as well as strengthening each other’s maritime domain awareness through information exchange and practical cooperation.
“We share one of the most important oceans in the world. We both want a stable, resilient and secure strategic environment. And we can achieve this better by working closely together, ”Dutton said.
Both ministers welcomed Australia’s continued participation in the quadrilateral Malabar naval exercise since last year, when this year’s edition was closed in Guam in the Western Pacific late last year.
With a strong focus on China, the quadrilateral countries of India, Australia, the United States and Japan expressed their desire to prevent any “coercion” in the Indo-Pacific region during a summit of their leaders on March 12.