Canberra [Australia]: Defending the use of Russian arms by Indian forces, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Monday hit out at Western countries for choosing military dictatorships as preferred partners and not supplying India with weapons for decades.
He made these remarks while addressing a press conference along with Australian counterpart Penny Wong after both ministers held the 13th Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue (FMFD).
“We have a long-standing relationship with Russia, and this relationship has served our interests well. We have a substantial inventory of Soviet and Russian-origin weapons,” Jaishankar said adding, “this inventory grew for various reasons including the West not supplying weapons to India for decades and in fact seeing the military dictatorship next to us as a preferred partner.”
“In international politics, we make judgments which are reflective of our future interests and current situation,” Jaishankar added.
Jaishankar on Monday held broad-ranging discussions on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and its repercussions on the Indo-Pacific region with his Australian counterpart.
“We discussed Ukraine and its repercussions in the Indo-Pacific region, the progress in Quad, G-20 issues, our trilateral, some things related to IAEA and climate finance sustainable development goals.”
“We have been very clearly against the conflict in Ukraine. We believe it does not serve the interest of anybody, the participants, or the international community. As the country of the global south, we have been seeing first hand how much it has impacted low-income countries. As PM Modi said in Samarkand, this is not an era of war,” the minister said.
Jaishankar said that the discussions held were underpinned by the fact that “as liberal democracies, both the countries believe in the rules based international order, in freedom of navigation in the international waters, in promoting growth connectivity and security of all and ensuring that countries make sovereign choices in matters that are important today.”
As the chair of G20 next year, Australia’s views and interests will be very important, he said. He expressed gratitude to Australia for joining India in celebrating the 75th anniversary of India’s independence by decorating Australia’s iconic sites.
Among bilateral issues, Jaishankar said that the talks were to see how India and Australia can shape a better region. “We spoke about a whole lot of issues — trade, economy, education, defence and security, clean energy and among the many agreements and understandings we reached. It is in our mutual interest to expand the diplomatic footprint in each other’s country.”
“There are some issues in which we see great potential in terms of giving a greater quality to our bilateral partnership,” he added.
First, Jaishankar said is the proposal that has been under discussion — “an understanding on the mobility of talent and skills and how we can grow education and what we could do bearing in mind India’s new education policy.”
He noted the progress in the economic cooperation and trade agreement finalized earlier this year. “Steps are being taken to amend the double taxation avoidance agreement because that was a challenge to growing our business.”
Responding to a question over the ‘Khalistani issue’, Jaishankar said, “From time to time we’ve engaged the Canadian government on this issue, and we have flagged the need to ensure that freedoms in a democratic society are not misused by forces which actually advocate violence and bigotry.”
Meanwhile, Penny Wong highlighted that India and Australia are comprehensive strategic partners. India and Australia recognize that the Indo-Pacific region is being reshaped and it is in the interest of both nations to navigate through this together, said Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong.
“Most fundamentally, we share a region, the Indio Pacific region. We got a shared interest and shared ambition which is our region being stable, prosperous and respectable of sovereignty and where countries are not required to choose sides but make their own sovereign choices,” the minister said.
Wong said both India and Australia “don’t want to see any country dominating and any country being dominated.”
“We both recognize that our region is being reshaped both economically and strategically. Our partnership is a demonstration that we understand that this period of change is best navigated together,” she added.
Underlining the importance of partnership with India, Wong said, “For Australia, this partnership (India), is a critical part of shaping the region we want.”
She said both countries have agreed to continue to deepen the relationship, including the diplomatic footprint in each other’s country. “We are looking to open a consulate general in Bengaluru, in the heart of India’s technology industry sometime next year,” she added.
Jaishankar arrived in Canberra on Monday to a “Tiranga welcome”.
“Arrived in Canberra to a Tiranga welcome. So happy to see the old Parliament house of Australia in our national colours,” Jaishankar tweeted. In Australia, Jaishankar will be visiting Canberra and Sydney.
It is EAM’s second visit to Australia this year, the first was in February 2022 to attend the Quad Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Melbourne. The external affairs minister will also be meeting the Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Richard Marles. (ANI)