Sydney: Australia is an important partner for India in terms of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific and working together ensures that this region remains free, open, stable and prosperous, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday.
Jaishankar, who is on a two-day visit to Australia, during his address to the Indian community said during the visit he spent time with the Australian military.
“They are a very important partner for us today in terms of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific. In fact, the big change in our relationship is the fact that today we both are members of the Quad mechanism and are working together in many ways to ensure that this region remains free, open, stable and prosperous,” Jaishankar said.
“I have seen again even in the last year how much progress we have made just in the last few weeks. We have had two major exercises in Australia where the Indian military has participated,” he said.
He said the perception, the relevance of each country to the other and the two nations’ common shared ability to contribute to the betterment of the region, is “something which is today an important factor in the relationship “, he said.
The US, India and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China’s rising military manoeuvring in the region.
China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.
“Now, an overall sense which I want to convey to you is really of two countries who in many ways have discovered the great potential of our ties and who have started to address that in a very serious manner,” Jaishankar said.
He also spoke about the India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement.
“I am very happy to share with you that actually, the ECTA ratification process is underway,” he said
“We are very confident that by the end of this year or early next, we would really be in a position to put in place a new economic framework, which will allow the full possibilities of our corporation to unfold,” the minister said.
He said he was really excited about the enormous possibilities in the bilateral ties, especially in the education sector.
“Australia has established a global reputation as an educational hub. A lot of Indian students come here and we believe today that education can be really the avenue by which India-Aus relationship can advance in a much more expansive manner,” he said.
“And I say that because in India, we’ve also had some major changes in our education policy. That India today, for a variety of reasons, actually is seeking greater international collaboration. And we are seeking that because we want our students to be more competent. We want our students to understand the world better. And we want our students to be prepared for a global workplace. The era when you know our countries primarily taught in their own space, that era is behind us,” Jaishankar said.
During his visit, Jaishankar held meetings with Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles and Education Minister Jason Clare.
Jaishankar also expressed hope to work with the Australian industry on a business-to-business basis to see whether in the area of mining especially of critical minerals, there is possible for the two nations to develop a stronger relationship.
“Again, this is a world of semiconductors. You all know how important critical minerals are,” he said.
In addition, the two countries are also looking at clean energy, he said.
“If there is one lesson from the energy crisis that we are all going through in the aftermath of the Ukraine conflict, it is that the transition to cleaner and greener energy needs to be hastened. And Australia is the kind of economy that in many ways can be a pioneer in some of its aspects…So this too is an area where we see a lot of possibilities with Australia,” he said.
On the business front, he said things have been reasonably good.
“Our trade in the year which has just completed is in excess of 27 billion dollars. It’s been quite a big jump. But again, it’s not a level that we are satisfied with. We are very confident that we will be able to grow this especially once ECTA and the tax avoidance amendments come into play,” he said.
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