India, Australia to further cooperation in maritime security, education

Modi and Turnbull in a joint statement agreed that the bilateral maritime exercise between the two countries will be conducted next year.

Published: 10th April 2017 09:27 PM  |   Last Updated: 10th April 2017 09:27 PM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Big ticket agreements eluded India and Australia, but maritime security and education emerged as major fields of cooperation following the talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull.

While the re-instatement of Australia in the Malabar exercises, comprising of India, the US and Japan, will have to wait for some time, Modi and Turnbull in a joint statement agreed that the bilateral maritime exercise between the two countries will be conducted next year. In the meantime, they agreed to “deepen” the triad of Australia, India and Japan to enhance “regional and global peace and security”.

 “The Prime Ministers agreed that the bilateral maritime exercise first held in the Bay of Bengal in 2015 (AUSINDEX) will be repeated off Western Australia in the first half of 2018,” the joint statement read while reaffirming their commitment to “peaceful and prosperous” Indo-Pacific. It is significant that how the geographic region of Asia-Pacific is referred to as Indo-Pacific in the statement.

The two countries iterated the importance of stability and security of Indo-Pacific region through which important Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) pass. Obliquely hinting at increasingly assertive China in the South China Sea, the joint statement said: “Recognising that an economically prosperous Indo-Pacific region is underpinned by stability and security, the two leaders underscored the importance of respecting the maritime legal order based on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”

Along with the first bilateral maritime exercise, the two countries are expected to have their maiden military exercise in 2018. India and Australia also agreed to initiate defence and foreign affairs dialogue to deepen their strategic partnership. The joint statement also called for the two countries to work in conjunction to counter terrorism while called for “strong measures against all those who encourage, support and finance terrorism, provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups, and falsely extol their virtues.”

In the backdrop of Pakistan, China and Russia deciding to hold a tri-lateral on Afghanistan while keeping New Delhi and Kabul off the table, the joint statement emphasised on early peace and reconciliation in the war-torn country through “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process”.

The centrality of education to the bilateral relationship has not been lost with Australia being home to more than 60,000 Indian students. “Increasing numbers of Australian students are coming to study in India. Responding to the aspirations of India's youth, building world class institutions in India is one of the objectives of my government. Prime Minister Turnbull and I discussed ways by which Australian Universities could connect and contribute to this goal,” Prime Minister Modi said in the joint conference addressed following the delegation level talks.

Prime Minister Turnbull emphasised the role Australia’s industry-led vocational education and training system, qualifications and training providers could play in India’s program to train 400 million people by 2022.


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