India and Australia commit to boosting strategic ties as their diplomats and defence chiefs hold talks

In this photo shared by India's Minister of External Affairs Subramanyam Jaishankar on the X-platform formerly known as Twitter, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong (left) and Jaishankar talk during the second India-Australia 2 2 Dialogue in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Nov.21, 2023. - (India's Minister of External Affairs Subramanyam Jaishankar X handle via AP)

NEW DELHI (AP): India and Australia on Tuesday said they were committed to boosting economic and strategic ties, as their top diplomats shared concerns over China, regional security and the Israel-Hamas war.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar met with his Australian counterpart Penny Wong a day after the two along with the countries’ defense chiefs held talks in New Delhi.

Jaishankar said he and Wong took stock of their growing ties in trade and defense, and there was "a real momentum" in their relationship.

The Indo-Pacific was a key priority for both countries, they said. Both Jaishankar and Wong said their nations are committed to a free, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region.

While neither of them named China, Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles on Monday said China remained a top concern for India and Australia.

"For both of us, China is our biggest trading partner. For both of us, China is our biggest security anxiety,” Marles said.

After Canberra angered Beijing in 2018 by banning Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from rolling out the country's 5G, economic ties have improved since Australia voted in a center-left government in 2022. But they continue to compete over influence in the Asia-Pacific.

For India, a yearslong military standoff along the shared but disputed border with China has exacerbated tensions and brought ties to a historic low.

India and Australia are also working to strengthen the Quad, a security alliance that also includes Japan and the United States.

Jaishankar also said that Hamas' attack on Israel on Oct. 7 was an act of terrorism. He called the situation in Gaza a "humanitarian crisis” that needs urgent assistance.

Wong said she shared India’s view and added the humanitarian situation in Gaza was dire. She also highlighted the need for "Israel to observe in its actions international law, including the protection of civilians”. - AP

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