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Australia, India agree to bolster trade, defense cooperation

Australia and India agreed on Saturday to strengthen and deepen relations in all areas, including economics, defense, investment, education, and research.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi issued a joint statement in which they expressed their concerns about the conflict and humanitarian situation in Ukraine.

The two leaders reiterated the need for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a peaceful resolution to the conflict, said the statement posted on the Australian premier’s official website.

“The conflict was causing immense human suffering, exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economic system,” it said.

Albanese and a high-level delegation concluded their four-day visit to India on Saturday, as the two leaders held the first annual summit on Friday under the India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, which was established in June 2020.

According to their 50-point joint statement, the two leaders also welcomed the entry into force of the landmark India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) in December last year and emphasized the significant opportunities to diversify and expand two-way trade.

They also agreed to make rapid progress in negotiations and to complete the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) between the two countries as soon as possible.

It said: “The Prime Ministers highlighted the significance of robust bilateral trade and investment flows through diversified, transparent, open, secure, inclusive and predictable global supply chains.

“In this regard, they welcomed initiatives to strengthen regional cooperation through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) and the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) between India, Australia and Japan, and decided to further strengthen cooperation in these areas.”

The two leaders also noted the importance of maintaining efforts to address climate change and welcomed the progress in bilateral cooperation in science, technology, innovation, and research.

The two leaders also discussed ways to enhance cooperation in the defense and security sectors, as well as their support for the 2+2 Defense and Foreign Ministerial Dialogue and the meeting of defense ministers this year.

“Recognizing the increasingly uncertain global security environment, Prime Ministers underscored their unwavering commitment to strengthening the India-Australia defense and security partnership to address shared challenges, and work towards an open, inclusive, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” it added.

The two leaders also welcomed the scheduled joint defense exercises, Malabar 2023, which Australia will host later this year in August. The US, India,n and Japanese forces will participate in the joint defense exercises.

“The Prime Ministers strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and emphasized the need for strengthened international cooperation to combat terrorism in a comprehensive and sustained manner, and to combat all those who encourage, support and finance terrorism or provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups, whatever their motivation may be,” the statement said.

The two leaders also renewed their commitment to supporting an open, inclusive, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific where sovereignty and territorial integrity are respected and reiterated the importance of adherence to international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to meet challenges to the maritime rules-based order, including in the South China Sea.

Both prime ministers agreed to strengthen cooperation through the Quad.

Albanese said he will welcome Modi to the Quad Summit 2023 in Australia.

They also expressed their deep concern at the deteriorating situation in Myanmar and called for an immediate cessation of violence, the release of all those arbitrarily detained, access to humanitarian assistance, and resolution of issues through dialogue, and a transition towards an inclusive federal democratic system in Myanmar.

They also condemned North Korea for continuing to launch ballistic missiles, urged it to abide by its obligations under relevant UNSCRs, and reaffirmed its commitment to the country’s complete denuclearization.

*Writing by Islamuddin Sajid

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