India,Australia FMs underline importance of strong bonds,enduring shared interests

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New Delhi, Oct.13 (ANI): At the India-Australia Foreign Ministers Framework Dialogue in New Delhi on 13 October, the Indian Minister of External Affairs, S M Krishna and the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith underlined the strong bonds and enduring shared interests which bind India and Australia together.

Relations between India and Australia continue to expand across a wide front, adding depth and breadth to the relationship. The two Ministers acknowledged the significant contribution made by regular two-way high-level political and official visits to the deepening and diversification of bilateral relations in various sectors.

The ministers had an in-depth and wide-ranging discussion about international and regional issues. They underlined the significant capacity for enhanced regional cooperation between India and Australia, including to strengthen the leaders-led East Asia Summit. The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs welcomed India's initiative on the revival of the Nalanda University as an important step for promoting deeper nderstanding by promoting the values of tolerance and accommodation. The Indian side noted the recent Australian initiative on the need for evolving an Asia-Pacific community to meet future challenges.

Global events since the last Framework Dialogue in June 2008 have underlined the urgent need for effective multilateralism and more representative international institutions which reflect the realities of the 21st century. India and Australia are pleased that the G20 has been designated as the premier forum for international economic cooperation. India and Australia look forward to continuing to work together closely in the G20 to meet the challenges confronting the global economy.

Mr Smith reiterated Australia's strong support for a permanent seat for India on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). He also highlighted Australia's firm support for India's membership of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping when the membership moratorium ends next year.

Mr Krishna said India was pleased Australia had become an observer at meetings of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Mr Smith affirmed that this step highlighted Australia's commitment to advancing its engagement with South Asia and said Australia looked forward to working with India in the SAARC context.

India and Australia are both strong supporters of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament and believe these are mutually reinforcing processes. They have stepped up their dialogue on strategic issues.

Recalling the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008, Mr Smith and Mr Krishna stressed that India and Australia were united in the fight against terrorism. Looking forward to the next meeting of the bilateral Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism and Immigration in New Delhi, they noted the need for practical cooperation in areas such as intelligence, law enforcement, border security and terrorist financing and money laundering. They welcomed the signing of a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on Money laundering in May 2009.

Mr Krishna and Mr Smith stressed the importance of an effective and comprehensive global response to climate change and underlined the need for political will to reach a successful outcome at the Copenhagen conference of parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Twenty-nine joint Australian-Indian projects under the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, including in relation to deploying clean technology, are making a tangible contribution. Mr Smith noted that India was a foundation member of the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute (GCCSI) and that a representative of India's The Energy Research Institute is serving on the GCCSI International Advisory Panel.

The two countries are finalising the details of a new young political leaders' exchange program. The exchange will build strong links between the rising political leaders of India and Australia, helping to deepen mutual understanding. Mr Krishna and Mr Smith look forward to the second India -Australia Roundtable meeting, which is to be hosted in New Delhi in November.

Noting the historic role that the public sector continues to play in the economic development of the two countries, the Ministers welcomed Australia's decision to increase support to build public sector linkages between the two countries. Projects funded under the scheme will address pressing public policy issues in various areas, including potentially on agriculture, climate change, water and resource management.

The new joint working group on visas, passports and consular issues met for the first time in Delhi on 11 August 2009, agreeing on a number of practical steps to enhance cooperation in these areas. Australia and India will continue to work together to counter people smuggling and human trafficking.

The bilateral economic relationship continues to go from strength-to-strength, especially in the resources and energy sector. India is now Australia's fifth largest export market. Two-way investment continues to grow. The base of the economic relationship is expanding into new areas such as energy, information technology and biotechnology. Mr Krishna and Mr Smith noted that the decision to undertake a Free Trade Agreement Feasibility Study was an indication of the great potential for growth in trade and investment between our two countries. The fourth meeting of the FTA Feasibility Study Joint Working Group was held in New Delhi on 22 -23 September. Both sides are working towards early finalisation of the report.

India and Australia have stepped up their cooperation in the resources and energy sector, by signing five action plans to deliver concrete outcomes. Strong commercial links continue to drive the energy relationship. India's first long-term LNG supply contract was signed in August this year.

India and Australia are committed to cooperating closely in discussions leading to the conclusion of the Doha Round of trade negotiations in 2010, thereby providing an important boost to the global economic recovery.

Mr Smith reiterated that the Australian Government and the governments of the Australian states are determined to address concerns about the safety and well-being of Indian students in Australia. Noting that Australia was a culturally diverse country. Mr Smith stressed that Australia had a zero tolerance approach towards violence and racial prejudice. People who had committed offences against Indian nationals would face the full force of the law. The Australian Government had introduced legislation to require all international education providers to re-register by the end of 2010 against strengthened criteria.

Mr Krishna welcomed these steps and stressed that India was fully committed to working with Australia to ensure that the education links that bind the two countries together were not compromised by poor quality education providers and unscrupulous education agents. Bilateral working groups discussed the issues of regulation of education agents, student welfare, vocational education and training, and quality assurance in Delhi on 6-7 October.

Cooperation in science and education constitutes one of the most dynamic parts of the Australia-India relationship, with collaborative projects such as the IIT-Bombay Monash University Academy underlining the great capacity for scientific cooperation. The two countries are creating a broad and strong knowledge partnership.

Australia's Endeavour Awards and Australian Leadership Awards are playing an important role in strengthening knowledge links between the two countries.

The India - Australia relationship is underpinned by diverse and expanding people-to-people links. The Indian community in Australia now numbers 250,000 people and is making a valuable contribution to building Australian society and to enhancing bilateral links. Sport has long been a strong bond between India and Australia.

Mr Smith said Australia was looking forward to participating in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. (ANI)

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