NEW DELHI : India and Australia said they will deepen their cooperation in areas ranging from defense and trade to vaccine development and resilient supply chains with the aim of advancing their “common goal of open, free and rules-based Indo-Pacific region “.

A joint statement released this weekend after the very first “2 + 2” talks between the foreign and defense ministers of two countries – Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and the Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defense Minister Peter Dutton of Australia – also expressed “deep concern” about the situation in Afghanistan. The two Australian ministers arrived in New Delhi on Friday. In addition to their meeting in the “2 + 2” format, the two visiting ministers also had separate bilateral talks with their counterparts. Payne and Dutton also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday.

The dialogue is seen as the result of the elevation of the two countries’ ties to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) in June 2020 after a virtual summit between the prime ministers of the two countries.

India now has “2 + 2” dialogues with all of its Quad partners — the United States, Japan and Australia. A similar dialogue should also be launched with Russia.

“To further realize the full potential of the India-Australia CSP, ministers stressed the intention to expand cooperation in the 2 + 2 framework and to meet at least once every two years to maintain momentum,” the statement said, adding that the next discussions would take place in 2023.

“In view of the growing maritime challenges, the ministers agreed to continue to strengthen cooperation in the maritime field,” the statement said.

“The ministers reiterated their commitment to maintain a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region to support the freedom of peaceful and unimpeded navigation, flight and trade through the adherence of all nations to the law. international, including the United Nations Convention. on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the peaceful settlement of disputes. They also stressed that the code of conduct in the South China Sea should fully comply with international law, especially UNCLOS, not infringe on the legitimate rights and interests of any nation in accordance with international law, and strengthen the regional architecture. inclusive existing, ”the statement said. in what can be seen as comments occurring in the context of China’s intimidating approach while dealing with its neighbors and partners. China has strained relations with its Southeast Asian neighbors over its claims to South China Sea waters. Australia is embroiled in trade tensions with China, with the latter imposing high tariffs on Australian products in retaliation from Canberra, supporting a US call for an investigation into the origins of the covid-19 that has surfaced for the first time in China in late 2019. India also has strained ties with China after New Delhi noticed incursions into its territory by Chinese troops in May 2020.

Beijing is also wary of the Quad which it says is an attempt by India, the United States, Japan and Australia to limit its influence and power in the region.

According to the joint statement, India and Australia “reaffirmed their commitment to quadrilateral cooperation between Australia, India, Japan and the United States”.

“The Quad has a shared vision for a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, and based on respect for international law… They appreciated the positive agenda aimed at promoting practical cooperation in COVID-19 vaccines, maritime security, climate change, humanitarian aid and disaster relief, connectivity and infrastructure, the fight against terrorism and critical and emerging technologies, “the statement said.

The two countries also stressed the importance of their defense relationship and discussed ways to expand the scope of the commitments. They “expressed a desire to do more in the maritime domain and to maximize resources to ensure free and open critical maritime corridors in the Indo-Pacific,” the statement said. The two countries “also agreed to explore areas of cooperation in the field of defense industries, including unmanned vehicles and other niche technologies,” he said.

Regarding Afghanistan, the four ministers called on “the Taliban to guarantee safe passage for foreign nationals and Afghans wishing to leave the country,” the statement said.

“They reiterated their appeals to those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan to adhere to counterterrorism and human rights commitments… Ministers agreed that a broad and inclusive government is necessary for long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan. The ministers also agreed to remain attentive to the wider repercussions of developments in Afghanistan on the ongoing terrorist threats in the world and in our region, ”the joint statement added.

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