After the US, Australia today came out in strong support of India playing a leading role in East Asia and said the security interests of both the countries are “congruent” in ensuring stability and openness in the Indo-Pacific region. Australian Foreign Secretary Frances Adamson also said Canberra’s trilateral and quadrilateral dialogues with India along with other major powers are a central part of its approach to “order-building” in the Indo-Pacific. “Beyond an increasingly important economic relationship, our security interests are congruent, particularly in relation to the stability and openness of the Indian Ocean,” she said during a media interaction. She said Australia “strongly encourages” India’s strategic interests in East Asia. The Trump administration has been favouring a larger role for India in the Indo-Pacific region. At the same time, Adamson said Australia will pursue “an active and positive” agenda with China and encourage it to use its growing influence to support regional security.
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, Adamson and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan Shinsuke J Sugiyama today held held the 4th Australia-Japan trilateral dialogue here which discussed a range of issues including the regional security scenario, counter-terror cooperation and North Korea’s nuclear missile tests. Australia, India, the US and Japan had held a meeting of the proposed quadrilateral coalition in Manila last month, seen as a move to counter China’s aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific. Adamson said the quadrilateral and the trilateral coalition will continue to exist alongside as both the platforms are broadening discussions in pursuing common interests.
Asked whether China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) figured in the trilateral talks, she said all the three countries were “very clear” that there should be transparency around these mega connectivity projects including in award of contracts and financing arrangements. India has opposed the BRI due to its sovereignty concerns over the $50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). CPEC is part of the BRI. “It does not matter under whose auspices infrastructure is being developed,” Adamson said.
Referring to Australia’s recently unveiled “white paper” on foreign policy, she said it recognises that India now sits in the front rank of Australia’s international partnerships. On bilateral trade and economic ties, Adamson said Australia is developing an ‘India Economic Strategy’ to identify new ways of doing business together and to work towards free trade between the two sides. She also said Australia will back India if it wants to join the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), a forum comprising 21 Pacific Rim member economies that promotes free trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
Asked about Australia’s interests in joining the Malabar naval exercise, she said her country would be part of it provided there is an invitation to it. At present, the US and Japan are part of the Malabar exercise along with India. Noting that China is Australia’s largest trading partner, she said Australia recognises that China increasingly has a capacity to contribute to peace and security in the region.
Referring to South China Sea disputes, the Australian foreign secretary said China must follow the ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague which favoured claims made by the Philippines. Adamson said the evolving security scenario in Indo- Pacific figured during the trilateral dialogue today as well as ‘2+2’ dialogue between India and Australia yesterday.
On supply of Australian uranium to India, Adamson said it is up to the issue is in the commercial domain as there is no obstacle for the supply.