India with Russian leaning walks a tightrope in Quad Group

India’s Foreign Minister, Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar was impressed when he saw the Old Parliament House in Canberra lit up in Indian tricolours in his welcome when he arrived there to attend the Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue on October 10.

Both, Australia and India, are keen to strengthen the bilateral relations and see how they together can shape a better Indo-Pacific region, Dr Jaishankar said.

“We spoke about a whole lot of issues – trade and economy, education, defence and security, clean energy. And among the many agreements and understandings we reached, were really the fact that it’s in our mutual interest to expand our diplomatic footprint in each other’s countries,” he said.

Among issues that have great potential to improve the bilateral relationship, Dr Jaishankar said, was understanding mobility of talent and skills that would complement India’s New National education Policy.

The economic cooperation and trade agreement that was finalized earlier this year and moving towards its ratification and entry into force is a very good development. Steps are being taken to amend the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement because that was also a bit of a challenge to growing business. The two ministers also looked at areas like critical minerals, cyber and renewable energy.

The Ukraine conflict has been a thorny issue on which India ‘s stand has varied from the Western world, not easily appreciated that India cannot overlook the past support from Russia in times of dire need during the 1971 war with Pakistan when, literally, the whole of Western world had abandoned her. India has also largely depended on defence supplies from Russia when the US has persistently aided Pakistan despite its shameful record on terrorism.

There is, however, convergence between Australia and India, as part of the Quad Group, to counter China’s domineering influence on Indo-China border and its intrusion into Australia’s sphere of influence of Island nations.

While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been urging Australia to use its influence to convince countries not to remain neutral, India’s Foreign Minister was non-committal to show his hand on voting at the UN upcoming resolution on annexation of four Ukrainian regions.

The strength of Indo-Australian relationship is underpinned by understanding that as liberal democracies both believe in a rules-based international order, in freedom of navigation in international waters, in promoting connectivity, growth and security for all, and as Minister Wong said, in ensuring that countries make sovereign choices on matters that are important to them.

Dr Jaishankar reflected on visits to Australia of six of his cabinet colleagues since June this year and visits to India by Australian Deputy PM and Defence Minister, the Deputy Premier of Western Australia and the Premier of New South Wales as testament of growing bilateral ties.

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