In a press interaction following the 14th Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue, India’s External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong underscored the robust momentum in the India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The dialogue covered a wide range of topics, including bilateral relations, the Quad summit, the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel, and other key issues in the Indo-Pacific region.
Dr Jaishankar welcomed Foreign Minister Wong on her second visit to India this year, emphasising the positive strides in the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The leaders took stock of the progress made since the first annual summit in May, highlighting new initiatives, such as the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement, increased trade, and enhanced diplomatic ties, including the establishment of new consulates in Bengaluru and Brisbane.
The 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministers Dialogue held recently, was termed as “very productive” by Dr Jaishankar, emphasising the deepening engagement between the two nations. Both leaders discussed the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) and the need for greater mobility of students and professionals, aiming to build trusted, reliable, and resilient supply chains in the Indo-Pacific.
Our shared love of cricket is a bridge deepening the connection between Australia and India.
I finished my visit with a game of backyard cricket to celebrate a new broadcast deal which will see all women and men’s international cricket played in Australia broadcast across India. pic.twitter.com/CSNHL38egJ
— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) November 21, 2023
Security issues were a focal point of the dialogue, with discussions on shared commitments to a free, open, and rules-based Indo-Pacific region. The ministers emphasised the importance of working towards a rules-based international order, supporting freedom of navigation, promoting connectivity, and ensuring territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The press interaction also delved into global issues, including counter-terrorism efforts, regional situations in West Asia and South Asia, and a shared commitment to addressing challenges in the Indo-Pacific. The ministers stressed the importance of cooperation in forums like the Quad, affirming their dedication to a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.
Regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict, both ministers expressed their shared commitment to addressing the complex and challenging situation. Dr Jaishankar outlined India’s position, emphasising the need to address terrorism, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and the long-term rights and future of the Palestinians through a two-state solution. Foreign Minister Wong echoed these sentiments, emphasising the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and the importance of international law.
Responding to a question, Dr. Jaishankar said, “Today I would say the consideration of the situation in West Asia is if you have these three broad sets of issues, we have to find a way by which all of them are addressed. When we hear one asserted at the expense of another, that is not really going to lead to a way forward. So, I think the challenge for all of us collectively is that how do all these facets of what is clearly a complicated issue which has a history to it, how do we deal with all of them? I think that is really what we discussed and my impression is that the Australian position is very similar to ours.”
“On the aspirations of the Palestinian people I think what this shows us is that we do need a political solution,” Ms Wong added. “We do need to get to a point where we see both Israeli and Palestinian peoples living in peace and security behind international borders and that progress to a two-state solution is required. I think that is clear from what has occurred. We have made other comments, including in relation to humanitarian pauses only being the first step, and made the obvious point that all of us would like to see the next steps towards a ceasefire but it can’t be one-sided.”
On the issue of China, Foreign Minister Wong clarified, “Australia views China as a significant economic partner and engages with China based on cooperation where possible and disagreement where necessary.” Both nations shared a commitment to shaping the regional landscape and addressing challenges in the Indo-Pacific.
Earlier, India and Australia reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen their strategic partnership to address “exceptional challenges” in the Indo-Pacific region. The affirmation came during the second India and Australia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, where Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar engaged with Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles, and Foreign Minister Penny Wong.
Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Marles acknowledged the importance of the India-Australia partnership, especially in the face of common challenges posed by China, which is both the biggest trade partner and the “biggest security anxiety” for both nations.
Stressing the significance of cooperation, Marles said, “We share an ocean, and in that sense, we are neighbours, and there has never been a more important time for our two countries to be working together.”