India, Australia to open more consulates to expand diplomatic footprint
Penny Wong and S Jaishankar

Canberra: India and Australia are looking forward to opening another consulate in each other’s countries as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Australian counterpart on Monday agreed to expand the relationship, including on the diplomatic footprint.

Australia will be opening the Consulate-General in Bangalore.

Jaishankar and Wong on Monday held a joint press conference after the 13th Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue here.

“We agree that we have to continue to deepen our relationship. And I’m pleased to flag with you that Dr Jaishankar and I have agreed that we will keep working to expand our relationship, including our diplomatic footprint in each other’s countries,” 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,” she added.

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

Jaishankar also said 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 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 said in his opening remarks.

The two leaders also discussed the Ukraine conflict and its repercussions, the Indo-Pacific, the progress in the Quad, G20 issues, trilateral, the UN, issues related to the IAEA, climate finance, and Sustainable Development Goals.

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.

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.”

On October 1, China withdrew a draft resolution at the IAEA against the AUKUS grouping seeking to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines following India’s objective view on the issue.

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 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on this.

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