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Press Statements following India-Australia 2+2 Ministerial Meeting (11 September 2021)

Posted on: September 11, 2021 | Back | Print

Shri Arindam Baghchi, Official Spokesperson: Good afternoon friends. Thank you for joining us today. Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Women of Australia, Senator Marise Payne. Honourable Minister of Defence of Australia, Mr. Peter Dutton, Honourable Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh, Honourable Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar. Distinguished delegates from both countries, friends from the media, thank you for joining us today. A very good afternoon to you and warm welcome for this very special media interaction that we have today on the occasion of the inaugural 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministers Ministerial meeting that we have today with Australia. We will begin today's media interaction with statements from all the Ministers. To begin the proceedings may I request honourable Raksha Mantri Ji to make his remarks.

Shri Rajnath Singh, Raksha Mantri: Excellency Ms Marise Payne and Excellency Mr Peter Dutton, Dr Jaishankar, Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honor and pleasure to receive both the ministers from Australia for the inaugural 2+2 India – Australia Ministerial Dialogue. The 2+2 dialogue signifies the importance of the India – Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. India and Australia share an important partnership which is based on a shared vision of free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. As two democracies we have a common interest in peace and prosperity of the entire region.

Today we have had in-depth and wide ranging discussion with Minister Payne and Minister Dutton on bilateral and regional issues. We have discussed various institutional frameworks for wide ranging collaboration including defence cooperation and fight against global pandemic. We exchanged views on Afghanistan, Maritime Security in the Indo-Pacific, cooperation in multilateral formats and other related topics.

During the discussions both sides emphasised the need to ensure free flow of trade, adherence to international rules and norms and sustainable economic growth in the entire region.

On the bilateral defence cooperation we decided to expand military engagements across services, facilitate greater defence information sharing and to work closely for mutual logistic support.

In the context of Defence Cooperation, both sides were glad to note continued participation of Australia in the Malabar Exercises. We invited Australia to engage India’s growing defence industry and to collaborate in co-production and co-development of defence equipment.

Dr Jaishankar and I thank both the Australian ministers for their visit to India despite the challenges of the pandemic. Both the sides agreed to continue the high level engagements to build a strong and robust partnership.

Thank you very much.”

(DISCLAIMER: This is the approximate translation of Raksha Mantri’s remarks. Original remarks were delivered in Hindi.)

Shri. Arindam Baghchi, Official Spokesperson: May I now request Honourable Minister of External Affairs to make his opening remarks.

Dr. S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister: Raksha Mantri Ji, Minister Payne and Minister Dutton, Friends of the Media

We have just concluded the first India Australia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. This format is reflective of our growing engagement under the umbrella of our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Before our meeting today, I met Minister Payne in the morning to discuss a range of bilateral, regional and international issues. I thank both the Australian Ministers and the Australian delegation for their effort to come here in person to make this Dialogue happen.

As democratic polities, market economies and pluralistic societies, we have a natural bonding that has assumed contemporary relevance in a changing world. It was during the First India-Australia Virtual Leaders’ Summit held on 4th June, 2020 that our Prime Ministers agreed to elevate our relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. This 2+2 format is a direct outcome of that Leaders’ Summit and is pursuant to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

India-Australia relations have experienced unprecedented momentum in the last seven years. There have been frequent engagements despite the pandemic in a range of areas. New mechanisms have come up reflecting new energies. Our people to people contact has added a unique dimension to this relationship through the flow of talents, ideas, education and tourism.

Today, as the four Ministers came together for the first time, we discussed our experiences and further collaboration in responding to the COVID 19 challenges. Decentralized globalization, strategic autonomy, sharper sense of national security are some of the relevant outcomes. We also underlined our commitments to creating secure and resilient global supply chains. We welcomed the renewed vigour with which both sides are now engaging on trade issues to fully expedite the complementarities between us.

As has been stated by Raksha Mantri Ji, we have had some significant progress in our defence cooperation framework and we have also set out an ambitious framework to further enhance our cooperation.

The 2+2 Dialogue reflects the comfort that we have attained in our bilateral relationship, especially in strategic and security spheres, based on the growing convergence with Australia on security issues and our shared commitment for a free, open, prosperous and rules-based Indo-Pacific region.

The peaceful development of the Indo-Pacific region has been a focus of our relationship. Our two countries believe that it should be shaped in a participative and collaborative manner. We reiterated our commitment to continue to work together for peace, stability and prosperity of all countries in the region. This would include a rules-based international order, freedom of navigation in international waters, promoting connectivity as well as respecting territorial integrity and sovereignty of all States.

During the 2+2 Dialogue, we also exchanged views on developments in our neighboring regions. Afghanistan was understandably, a major subject of discussion. We agreed that the international community must united in its approach, guided by UNSC Resolution 2593.

As members of the Quad, we recognized the importance of plurilateralism in a multipolar and rebalanced world. We appreciate the value of our trilaterals with Japan, France and Indonesia and will hold these dialogues soon.

The importance of on-going cooperation in multilateral arena for preserving the rules-based international order was also emphasised. Our cooperation in the Commonwealth is important to that organization’s performance.

I also specifically took up with Minister Payne the problems faced by Indian students in Australia and those wishing to go to Australia as well as the Indian origin community that is resident there. I urged that the difficulties faced by the students due to travel restrictions be sympathetically addressed as soon as possible.

Today is the 20th anniversary of 9/11. It is a reminder- if one is still needed- of the importance of combating terrorism without compromise. Close as we are to its epicenter, let us appreciate the value of international cooperation

In conclusion, I once again thank Minister Payne and Minister Dutton for their presence here in India today and for a very productive 2+2 Dialogue.

Shri Arindam Baghchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you sir. May I now invite Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Women of Australia Senator Marise Payne to take the floor.

Ms. Marise Payne: Thank you very much and to Ministers Jaishankar, and Minister Singh, Minister for Defence of Australia Peter Dutton, to Australian High Commissioner to India Barry O'Farrell, the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Kathryn Campbell, members of the media. May I say what an enormous pleasure it is to be in New Delhi again. Unusually for Australians, we appear to have brought rain with us. We intend to take some home, because we most certainly need it. But it is, as always, no matter the weather, a great pleasure to be here, I want to extend our heartfelt thanks to our hosts for their warm and generous hospitality and their facilitation of this extremely important meeting between Australia and India. This is my third visit to India in three years. And I've stopped counting the number of meetings I have been able to have with my good friend, Dr. Jaishankar, many of them face to face, perhaps too many of them virtual. And we look forward to escaping the confines of COVID-19 to ensure that those face to face meetings and international engagements can continue.

That strong engagement though, speaks to the powerful momentum in the relationship between our two nations. And it is an important step today, with the two plus two meeting marking another success stemming from our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and from the undertakings that we are pursuing. Australia and India share a positive vision of a free, open, secure, inclusive Indo Pacific. As maritime powers and outward looking democracies in the Indo Pacific our cooperation is essential. We've talked today about many things, but including the strong and enduring Australia-India relationships in trade, in community links, in cyber and climate and defence, we have shared views on the challenges of the East China and South China Seas, of Myanmar and of Afghanistan, last month did see the fall of Kabul and along with the ongoing fight of terrorism, the future of Afghanistan remains a central concern to both of our countries. Both of our countries have been the victims of appalling terrorist attacks. And this day, the 11th of September, will be forever remembered for those terrible events of 20 years ago, when terrorism struck at the heart of our friend, the United States, and by extension, also a modern, pluralist, and democratic world. It's fitting that Minister Dutton and I should be here on this anniversary with such an important democratic partner.

Ours is a relationship that supports stability, and the rules based order, a relationship that is based on the long standing commonalities but is also full of vitality and promise and I am very glad to be here today, to see us take it forward another very important step. Thank you.

Shri Arindam Baghchi, Official Spokesperson: May I now request, Honourable Minister of Defence of Australia, Mr. Peter Dutton to take the floor.

Mr. Peter Dutton: Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and thank you very much for being here. Thank you, Marise, for your words. It's been a great honour for Minister Payne and myself to be here in the distinguished company of Minister Jaishankar, thank you very much and also to Minister Singh, two good friends and two wonderful people for the relationship. I do want to start today by acknowledging the 20-year anniversary of 9/11, and acknowledged that many people will still be suffering the loss of a loved one and let it always be a reminder to us of the human cost of the barbaric acts of terrorism, which as Minister Payne points out we've seen not only in the United States, but you know, our own countries and indeed, in regions across the world. And it's part of the reason why this relationship is so important and while we rededicate ourselves to the values that we share, and that was reflected in the discussions today. Discussions have been incredibly productive. And from a year on, since the Prime Minister's Morrison and Modi signed the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, Australia and India's defence relationship is at a historic high.

It has been a great pleasure, Minister Singh to spend time with you and I thank you very much for your engagement. I want to acknowledge your dedication in advancing the Indo Australian Defence and Security Partnership and I too am equally committed to this partnership and into this endeavour. India is a rising Indo Pacific great power and an increasingly significant security partner for Australia, particularly in the maritime domain. We both depend on free and open access to sea lanes in the Indo Pacific for our trade and economic well being and we share an unwavering commitment to upholding the rules based international order and ensuring the indo Pacific is open, inclusive, and indeed prosperous. As our nations contend with an increasingly complex and uncertain region, the friendship and partnership between our two nations is essential for helping to ensure our region is secure and stable. And in this vein, I've been incredibly pleased to see the growth in joint exercises and activities between our armed forces despite the challenges of COVID-19. As we speak ships from our navies are exercising together off the coast of Australia's Northern Territory as part of AUSINDEX our two nations by annual bilateral naval exercise. Furthermore, we continue to collaborate in other areas, like defence, science and technology, and importantly, cyber security. Our mutual logistic support arrangement enabled Australia to airlift oxygen to India and support its response to the pandemic. Such activities are paving the way for deeper and more sophisticated operational cooperation between our two nations. Today, Minister Singh and I agreed to several initiatives to further our strong defence relationship and to drive greater practical engagement between our armed forces. Australia will invite India to participate in exercise, Talisman Sabre, and to continue to support Indo Pacific endeavour as we saw earlier this week. Australia will continue to participate in India's exercise Malabar with the United States and Japan. Australia and India have agreed to reinforce each other's maritime domain awareness through increased information sharing and indeed practical cooperation. And finally, Australia will increase its defence diplomatic representation here in New Delhi, a very significant and historic step to support closer coordination on Indian Pacific maritime security and greater information sharing. This meeting was a vital opportunity to discuss practical ways to reinforce our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, deepen our interoperability, and bolster our defence cooperation. I look forward very much to continue close engagement with Minister Singh, I thank the Indian government for the warm hospitality that's been extended to Marise and I thank you for your friendship, which continues to grow on each of these occasions. Thank you.

Shri Arindam Baghchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you, ministers for your opening remarks. We will now take a few questions from friends of the media, given time constraints we will limit that to four. May I begin the first question from Ms. Vinita Pandey from Asian Age please?

Ms. Vinita Pandey: My question is to Dr. Jaishankar. Sir you mentioned that Afghanistan was discussed.So maybe you can give us some idea as to what extent Afghanistan was discussedand is there going to be a common approach between India and Australia in dealing with the problems emanating from Afghanistan region?

Dr. S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister: Well, I think if your question is about a common approach, Minister Payne should have an equal shot at an answer. But what I can say is that we had a very detailed exchange of views and our approach is very similar. In a way it is summed up by the UN Security Council resolution 2593, which emphasises most of all, that Afghanistan must not allow it soil to be used in any manner by anybody for terrorism. But apart from that there were issues of concern about the inclusiveness of the dispensation, concerns about treatment of women and minorities, matters related to travel of Afghans issues regarding humanitarian assistance. So it is an evolving situation. I think it was a good exchange of notes, but I think perhaps Minister Payne would like to speak for Australia's position.

Ms. Marise Payne: Thank you Dr. Jaishankar. Thank you for the question. We do share very strong interests in ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for the breeding or the training of terrorists. And that is an abiding concern of the international community. For Australia's part, we're also very focused on seeking safe passage for those in Afghanistan, citizens, foreign nationals, visa holders of other countries who seek to leave Afghanistan, and we have urged that they be allowed to leave safely and means available for them to do so. We're very conscious of the impact of violence, and breaches of human rights on the Afghanistan community. And again, would call for those fundamental human rights to be observed. Humanitarian assistance will be a very important focus for the international community. We know that not only the recent events will have exacerbated any issues that were already being dealt with but the ongoing drought, the significant internal and external displacement of citizens, the need for the World Food Programme, the UNHCR, the international organisation for migration, to be allowed unimpeded and safe access to provide humanitarian support is something which is very front of mind for Australia and for the international community. And I would also strongly reinforce Australia's views in relation to the position of women and girls. For 20 years, we have worked with the international community and the people of Afghanistan, to ensure that the circumstances for women and girls in relation to education participation in the workforce, the protection of their basic rights were preserved and in fact allowed to grow. And there are many women and girls who attest to the achievements of those two decadesand Australia stands with other members of the international community in seeking to ensure that that is not wound back. And the participation of women and girls in their own right, in a just way in the community is allowed to continue.

Shri Arindam Baghchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. The next question I'll have Manas from PTI.

Mr. Manas: Good afternoon Ministers. The two plus two inaugural talks took place at a very very crucial time when the region is seeing witnessing unsettled geopolitical flux, including developments in Afghanistan as well as our growing convergence among the QUAD member countries in the Indo Pacific region, considering the deepening of Australia and India's defence cooperation, Rajnath Singh Ji how do you see the India Australia defence cooperation going forward in the next five to six years? Thank you.

Shri Rajnath Singh, Raksha Mantri: I can say that in recent years the bilateral defense cooperation between India and Australia have become very strong and this cooperation or this bilateral relation between India and Australia are going in the right direction and there has been a remarkable progress has been achieved in last few years. In June 2020 the virtual leader summit was held between Prime Minister Modiji and the Prime Minister of Australia Mr. Morrison in which I consider a major milestone was achieved in taking this relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership level and its growth. It has been so. I thank Minister Peter Dutton for his personal interest in taking forward our growing partnership. I also thank him for the personal interest he has taken and for this I also want to congratulate him on my behalf. We share common interests in a peaceful, cooperative and prosperous Indo-Pacific region of India and Australia and this partnership is completely based on the vision of a free, open, inclusive and rule based Indo-Pacific region. And all these possibilities are clearly visible in our emerging cooperation for greater military engagement, better information sharing and cooperation, emerging defense technologies and mutual logistical support. We have also invited Australian industry to take advantage of India's liberalized foreign direct investment policies and we are fully committed to building a strong partnership with Australia for the security and development of the entire region and I want to give more height to this partnership and take it to greater heights.

Thank you very much.

(DISCLAIMER: This is the approximate translation of Raksha Mantri’s remarks. Original remarks were delivered in Hindi.)

Shri. Arindam Baghchi, Official Spokesperson: Would Minister Dutton also like to add to that.

Mr. Peter Dutton: Thank you. Well, I will first endorse the words of Minister Singh. I think the outlook and the desire for both of our countries is to see remaining peace and prosperity in our region and India enjoys the economic success that it does today and Australia enjoys the economic success that we do because of the prevailing peace in our region, the Indo Pacific is a complex area and increasingly so neither Australia nor India are aggressive nations, we stand for our values. And we work very closely together because our values align. And we want for our countries as we want for other countries in the region, a very bright future. And it's why we shouldn't take what we have for granted, or what we've been able to build up. Since the end of the Second World War in our part of the world, we need to make sure that that piece prevails. And that's the cause that we dedicate ourselves to. And so the arrangements between our respective defence agencies is more important than ever, sharing that intelligence, the maritime operations, the ability to form those people to people links, the shared arrangements in terms of facilities and understanding the better ways in which we can operate together to reach beyond our normal areas of influence these are all very important areas of pursuit in the relationship. And I commend the leadership under Mr. Singh and the general and Secretary Kumar and others for that work and the engagement with Australia because we're dedicated to making sure that peace continues in our region, and then our countries can continue to thrive and prosper.

Shri. Arindam Baghchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you sir. For the third question, may I invite Manish Jha of TV9.

Mr. Manish Jha: Thank you sir. Sir my question to both sides. My question to Honourable EAM also that, since the India and Australia both are member of QUAD, and China calls QUAD as Asian NATO. So what is your response?

Dr. S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister: Well, I think my response would be that we call ourselves QUAD. And QUAD is a platform where four countries have come to cooperate, for their benefit and for the benefit of the world. I think term, like NATO is very much a Cold War term, looking back I think QUAD looks in the future. It reflects globalisation. It reflects the compulsions of countries to work together. And if you look at the kind of issues QUAD is focused on today vaccines, supply chains, education, connectivity, you know, I can't see any relationship between such issues and NATO or any other kind of organisations like that. So I think it's important not to misrepresent what is the reality out there.

Ms. Marise Payne: Thank you. I think Jai has explained it and articulated that response. extremely well, if I may say, and it's certainly the case that as Australia and India have reenergized relations, there is also the opportunity to work through smaller groups like the QUAD and other pieces of regional architecture like the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum, for example. QUAD members are champions of ASEAN centrality, we actively engage in in that ASEAN led architecture. We're committed to supporting the practical implementation of the ASEAN outlook on the Indo Pacific, and also say that we have a positive and practical agenda. Minister Jaishankar has mentioned a number of those initiatives around vaccines around climate around critical technology, also trying to address some of the dangerous disinformation that pervades the world's experience in relation to work to the pandemic. So our constructive engagement in an informal diplomatic network is overwhelmingly about contributing positively for that open, inclusive and resilient region in which we all want to live.

Shri. Arindam Baghchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. And for final question, may I request Maha Siddiqui at CNN News18.

Ms. Maha Siddiqui: Hi I’m Maha Siddiqui from CNN News 18. My question is for both External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar and the Australian Foreign Minister COVID has changed a lot but we are all learning to live in the new normal, but there's a lot of frustration and problems for Indian students who want to travel to Australiaand because of restrictions they haven't been able to do so. Was that matter taken up by the Indian side? And the Australian side, has there been any reassurance as to when things can be eased out?

Dr. S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister: Well, yes. You know, we hear a lot from the students and I think their frustrations, their feelings are completely understandable. Many of them would like to be at the institutions that they are already studying in or want to study in. So we discussed it in some detail today. Minister Payne, who will of course, speak for herself, have shared with me, what is Australia's thinking about when students would be able to come but certainly, and I say this not just for Australia, I think we've been having some problems with some other countries as well, we had initially with the US, we're still having some issues with Canada. So I do want the, you know, the students of the country and the parents of the students to know that it is something we take as a very high priority, and take up very, very vigorously with our foreign partners, but minister Payne would like to perhaps speak about Australia’s thinking.

Ms. Marise Payne: Thank you, I would. I live and work in Western Sydney. And I am one of the most enthusiastic proponents of welcoming our much loved Indian students back into the Australian education system, as soon as it is possible for us to do so, the Diaspora is and the student body is very present, where I live and where I work, and we miss that engagement sincerely, there are still over 60,000 Indian students in Australia. But I do definitely understand the desire that those students and their families who are not able to be there have that that desire they have for the on campus experience the in country, life and it is of course, very difficult.The COVID restrictions have impacted travel to and from Australia, and not just for the sorts of students that you raise for Australians themselves. And in fact, for ministers, like Minister Dutton and I, we are required to comply with the same sort of quarantine restrictions, and health requirements as all incoming travellers as you would expect. So our approach in Australia has been based on research and modelling condition by the government from the imminent Doherty Institute. And that gives us a four phase pathway in terms of our response to COVID-19. And our progression through our doubt of the restrictions that have been in place.We are on the way to vaccinating Australians to a level which will give us the confidence to begin the sort of reopening that will enable students to return in phases three, and then in phase four, a much more open environment for international travel and that will include students. So I think, although it is frustrating, I understand for both of the individuals and for families, there is a shared desire on both sides to see that travel resume between our countries as soon as it is safe to do so. And I look forward to being one of the people at the airport to welcome the first arrivals of Indian students coming back to Australia.

Shri. Arindam Baghchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you honourable Ministers. Thank you guests. That brings us to the end of this special briefing. May I request you to remain seated as the delegation members leave the home.