Australia and India hold first 2 + 2 talks, Oz ready to join Malabar exercises
The recently released Australia foreign policy white paper, sister to last year’s defence white paper, placed India among the “front rank” of the country’s international partnerships.world Updated: Dec 13, 2017 19:44 IST
Australia stands willing to join the Malabar naval exercises whenever the three participants invite it, the country’s foreign secretary Frances Adamson said on Wednesday.
Adamson was in New Delhi for the first “2 + 2 talks” between the foreign and defence secretaries of India and Australia. The talks had focussed on the Indian Ocean and issues like maritime domain awareness, she said.
The fourth round of the trilateral India-Japan-Australia talks were held on Wednesday. These talks, she said, had looked at cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region as a whole with an emphasis on North Korea, counterterrorism and cybersecurity.
With the 2 + 2, trilateral and quadrilateral talks, which bring the United States into the fold, as well as another trilateral with Indonesia, New Delhi and Canberra interact on four “small group” geometric strategic platforms.
Adamson said: “The quadrilateral and the trilateral will exist alongside each other.” The quadrilateral simply merged two existing trilateral arrangements into one, she pointed out.
The recently released Australia foreign policy white paper, sister to last year’s defence white paper, placed India among the “front rank” of Australia’s international partnerships. The paper called for an “open” and “inclusive” Indo-Pacific and for support to US global leadership.
In Australia, the white paper was seen to take a strong position against Chinese assertiveness in the region, with a call for all countries to seek to settle the South China Sea dispute through international law and not, as Adamson said, by “coercive economic power”.
India has had questions about Australia’s willingness to stand up to China, given the latter is Australia’s largest trading partner. Canberra had walked out of the original “Quad” set up during the George W Bush administration when a Labour government had come to power for fear of offending Beijing. This week saw a Labour senator, Sam Dastyari, resign over charges he had become a mouthpiece for Beijing.
Adamson said the white paper’s “principles” have been “broadly embraced by the opposition”, and that there was “bipartisan support of our management of relations with China”.
She said there were no more governmental barriers to uranium exports to India and it was now up to commercial players to take it forward. Canberra had appointed a former foreign secretary, Peter Varghese, to work out on an Indian economic strategy.