India-Australia elevate strategic partnership amid China’s belligerence in Indo-Pacific region

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NEW DELHI: India and Australia on Thursday announced a Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and Comprehensive Strategic Partnership as they concluded nine arrangements including Mutual Logistics Support (MLSA) for their navies amid China’s aggression in the Indo-Pacific region.

The shared vision to stabilise maritime domain in the Indo-Pacific region and elevation of Strategic Partnership to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership were agreed at the first ever India-Australia Summit held virtually. In fact this was first ever virtual bilateral summit that was attended by PM Narendra Modi.

In his opening remarks, the Prime Minister said he believed that it is the “perfect time and perfect opportunity” to further strengthen the relationship between India and Australia. “India-Australia relations have deepened. And this depth comes from our shared values, shared interests, shared geography and shared objectives…How our relations become a ”factor of stability” for our region and for the world, how we work together for global good, all these aspects need to be considered.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called India a “trusted friend of Australia” and a “pioneer in technology”. “India has been a positive force in these trying times and our relationship with India is a natural one. The time has come for broader and deeper ties. India has been a pioneer in technology – an area that is key today and will be so in future,” he said.

“As two key Indo-Pacific countries, India and Australia have an enduring interest in a free, open, inclusive and rules based Indo-Pacific region. They have a shared interest in ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight in the Indo-Pacific region, and maintaining open, safe and efficient sea lanes for transportation and communication,” stated the Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in what was an indirect but clear message to Beijing whose belligerence in the South China Sea region has rattled several countries.

Significantly the two sides also signed Implementing Arrangement concerning cooperation in Defence Science and Technology to the MoU on Defence Cooperation. This provides a framework for growing collaboration between the defence science and technology research organisations of both countries. The two sides also signed Framework Arrangement on Cyber and Cyber-Enabled Critical Technology Cooperation and MOU on cooperation in the field of mining and processing of Critical and Strategic minerals. India is eyeing to import strategic minerals from Australia as it seeks to diversify supplies beyond China.

The widening of Indo-Australian strategic partnership is also significant amid current standoff at the Line of Actual Control between India and China as it could send a message to Beijing.

Both sides made it clear that they support a rules-based maritime order that is based on respect for sovereignty and international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) echoing views of many SE Asian states and other countries in the region. “India and Australia have common concerns regarding the strategic, security and environmental challenges in the Indo-Pacific maritime domain…India and Australia will work closely to develop, with all interested partners, the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 14th East Asia Summit on 4 November 2019 at Bangkok,” according to the shared vision.

In a message to Pakistan both sides strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and stressed that there can be no justification for acts of terror on any grounds whatsoever. “Consistent with resolutions of the United Nations and the 2015 G20 Statement on the Fight against Terrorism, both sides support a comprehensive approach in combating terrorism, including by countering violent extremism, preventing radicalisation to terrorism, stemming recruitment, preventing the movement of terrorists including Foreign Terrorist Fighters, disruption of financial support to terrorists, countering incitement to commit terrorist acts and facilitating the investigation and prosecution of terrorist acts,” according to the Joint Statement.





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