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India and Australia to work jointly on trusted supply chains: Jaishankar

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India and Australia will work jointly to create more trusted and resilient supply chains and to ensure inclusive growth across the Indo-Pacific, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Saturday.

He made the remarks while addressing a joint news conference in Melbourne with Australian foreign minister Marise Payne, who announced the Maitri (friendship) initiatives with an outlay of more than Aus $20 million to foster educational and cultural ties between the two countries.

The ministers addressed the media after holding the annual India-Australia foreign ministers’ framework dialogue and the maiden cyber framework dialogue. Payne said the two sides discussed regional challenges such as the Covid-19 response, economic recovery, supply chain resilience, maritime security and cyber threats.

Jaishankar welcomed the Australian government’s announcements about committing additional resources to deepen the partnership with India.

The cyber framework dialogue had focused on shared challenges and opportunities for closer collaboration in this important domain, he added.

Payne outlined the new initiatives to strengthen educational and cultural ties – the Maitri Scholars Programme with an outlay of more than Aus $11 million for Indian students to study at Australian universities, the Maitri Fellowships Programme with an outlay of Aus $3.5 million to build links between future leaders and foster collaboration between mid-career professionals on strategic research initiatives, and the Maitri Cultural Partnerships with an outlay of Aus $6 million to support cultural exchanges and boost the role of creative industries in both countries. All these programmes will run for four years.

She also said the Australia-India Infrastructure Forum will match Australian finance with opportunities in India and its neighbours.

On Friday, Payne had announced that Australia will provide $36.5 million over five years to enhance engagement in the northeast Indian Ocean. This includes $11.4 million to improve regional cooperation on maritime shipping, disaster resilience and information sharing and $4.3 million to support relationships across the LNG supply chain between Australia, India and Bangladesh. These measures are meant to support trade, investment and connectivity.

Jaishankar said he and Payne had discussed concerns related to terrorism and extremism. “We have serious concerns about continuing cross-border terrorism and it’s our shared endeavour to deepen counter-terrorism cooperation, including in the multilateral fora,” he said.

India and Australia, as liberal democracies, will continue to work for a rules-based international order, freedom of navigation in international waters, promoting connectivity, growth and security for all while respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states, he said.

Jaishankar welcomed Australia’s decision to open its borders as it will facilitate the return of Indian students and temporary visa holders. Payne said Australia had already seen the return of 15,000 Indian students returned between November and January, the largest group from any one country.

The Australian side has been “forward-leaning” in helping students with expired visas and work approvals, Jaishankar said. He also thanked Australia for the mutual recognition of vaccine certificates and the recognition of made-in-India vaccines.

The Hindustan Times

Wednesday, February 16, 2022 – 12:42

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