Oz Foreign Minister defends Dalai Lama meeting in Dharamshala

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Melbourne, July 5 (ANI): Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has maintained that the Australian parliamentary delegation's decision to meet the Dalai Lama in India was entirely appropriate despite Chinese condemnation.

"This is a reflection of Australia's democratic strengths. It is entirely appropriate for a parliamentary delegation to visit India and entirely appropriate for a parliamentary delegation to make contact with the Dalai Lama if it so chooses," The Age quoted Smith, as saying.

According to Smith, Chinese officials had made a low level condemnation of a meeting between the Australian parliamentary delegation and the Dalai Lama in India last week.

Smith said Australia had made strong calls for China to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama, and strong remarks about Chinese human rights abuses in Tibet.

He added that Australia had also made the point to China that it needed to be more transparent in explaining the strategic justification for the enhancement of its military forces.

Earlier, Australia's former Prime Minister Paul Keating had criticised the Kevin Rudd government for being excessively defensive towards China in the new Defence White Paper.

On this, Smith said Australia wasn't being defensive at all, and enjoyed a positive, productive and forward-looking relationship with China.

"On the question of China and its military modernisation ... the Australian government, including the prime minister and I, have made the point to China that as China emerges as a growing economy and as an economic power, of course its military capacity and its military deployments and its military assets will increase," he said.

"That is a natural thing. What we do need to have more from China is what is the particularly strategic underpinning of this military enhancement."

Smith said China talked of emerging into a harmonious environment while Australia talked in terms of China being a responsible international stakeholder.

"We are confident that will occur but we are not starry-eyed about our relationship with China. There are a range of things where we have differing views with China including human rights issues," he said. (ANI)

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