Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms

Media release

23 June 2008

Australia-India Foreign Ministers Framework Dialogue

Joint Statement 2008

At the Australia-India Foreign Ministers Framework Dialogue in Canberra on 23 June, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, and the Indian Minister for External Affairs, Pranab Mukherjee, underlined the strong bonds and enduring shared interests which underpin the Australia-India relationship. They affirmed that the two governments were committed to taking bilateral links to a new, higher level. They noted that existing and new forms of cooperation in a wide range of areas exemplified the growing depth and breadth of the Australia-India partnership.

The Ministers welcomed the diversification and strengthening of political links between Australia and India, two democracies committed to the rule of law, pluralism and respect for human rights. They emphasised that regular high-level political contact would continue to underpin bilateral relations. Mr Smith said he looked forward to visiting India in September. Mr Mukherjee welcomed the visit and said this would provide another opportunity for continuing the dialogue.

International and regional cooperation

The Ministers had an in-depth and wide-ranging discussion about international and regional issues. They underlined the significant capacity for enhanced regional cooperation between Australia and India, including in the context of the East Asia Summit. They also confirmed the need for effective multilateralism and more representative international institutions which reflect the realities of the 21st century. Mr Smith reiterated Australia’s strong support for a permanent seat for India on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). He also highlighted Australia’s firm support for India’s membership of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping when the membership moratorium ends in 2010.

Mr Mukherjee welcomed Australia’s bid for a non-permanent UNSC seat for the 2013-14 term. He noted India would follow with interest Australia’s initiative in appointing an envoy to explore how an Asia-Pacific Community might evolve over time to respond to emerging opportunities. He further said India supported Australia’s application for observer status at meetings of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

Mr Smith and Mr Mukherjee discussed the current food security and energy security challenges facing the world and underlined the capacity of Australia and India to work together, including at ministerial level, to address these issues in a mutually beneficial manner. They noted Australia’s capacity to cooperate actively in these areas as India’s economy continues to expand.

The Ministers reiterated their strong support for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. They noted that Australia and India have stepped up their dialogue on strategic issues. They welcomed the decision to establish regular chief of defence force level talks. The inaugural talks are scheduled to take place in Australia in the near future.

Recalling the recent bombings in Jaipur, Mr Smith and Mr Mukherjee stressed that Australia and India were united in the fight against terrorism. Looking forward to the next meeting of the bilateral Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism and Immigration in New Delhi later this year, they noted the need for practical cooperation in areas such as intelligence, law enforcement, border security and counter-terrorist financing and money laundering. The ministers underlined the desire of both countries to strengthen intelligence cooperation, including on counter-terrorism issues.

Mr Smith and Mr Mukherjee stressed the importance of an effective and comprehensive global response to climate change and reaffirmed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. They noted the positive contribution being made by joint Australian-Indian projects under the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, including in relation to deploying clean technology. They announced the creation of a new bilateral water dialogue to share ideas about the best way to handle scarce water resources.

Political links

Mr Smith and Mr Mukherjee announced that the two countries had decided to extend the political partnership which binds the two countries together by establishing a new forum, the Australia-India Roundtable. Convened by the Lowy Institute and the Indian Council for World Affairs, the Roundtable will bring together leading individuals from both countries every year to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing Australia and India in the twenty-first century. Details regarding the holding of the Roundtable are being determined.

The Ministers welcomed Australia’s decision to allocate up to $10 million under its development assistance program for targeted technical assistance to build public sector linkages between the two countries. Projects funded under the scheme will address pressing public policy issues in various areas, including potentially on agriculture, climate change, water and resource management.

The Ministers announced the formation of a new joint working group on visas, passports and consular issues to facilitate greater practical cooperation in these areas.  Mr Smith said the Australian Government would continue to address concerns about the safety and well-being of Indian students in Australia in an active way.  He stressed that Australia authorities would also continue to follow up any incidents involving Indian students quickly and efficiently.

Legal cooperation

Legal cooperation, especially in relation to law enforcement, is another key and expanding area of the Australia-India relationship. Mr Smith and Mr Mukherjee signed an extradition treaty and a mutual legal assistance treaty, underscoring the willingness of the two countries to collaborate and address criminal matters in a practical way.

Economic links

Mr Smith and Mr Mukherjee underlined the strength of the bilateral economic relationship, especially in the resources and energy sector, and welcomed the positive outcomes of the 11th Joint Ministerial Commission, co-chaired by the Australian Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, and the Indian Minister for Commerce and Industry, Kamal Nath, in Melbourne on 20 May. They noted that the base of the economic relationship was expanding into new areas such as information technology and biotechnology. They highlighted the proposal to create an Australia-India CEOs Forum to enhance business links, ensuring that the expanding economic relationship was underpinned by closer business links at the highest level. They reiterated that the two governments looked forward to receiving a report on the feasibility of a comprehensive FTA from the joint FTA study group by the end of 2008. They welcomed the proposal to enhance resources cooperation between the two countries by finalising the terms of a bilateral resources strategy.

Scientific and education cooperation

Recognising that science and education constitute one of the most dynamic parts of the Australia-India relationship, the Ministers underlined the capacity for scientific cooperation, including via the bilateral strategic research fund.

Australia’s and India’s premier science organisations, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), will sign a Memorandum of Understanding in July to further their scientific collaboration. This MOU will build on the recent signing of a research partnership between CSIRO and CSIR that focuses on research related to water, energy and sustainable agriculture. The Ministers noted the advantages of hosting the Square Kilometre Array, the world’s largest radio telescope, in Australia.

Education is a cornerstone of the relationship, with more than 52,000 Indian students currently enrolled in Australian educational institutions. Ministers noted the positive role being played by Australia’s Endeavour Scholarship Awards in strengthening knowledge links between the two countries.

People-to-people links

The Australia-India relationship is underpinned by diverse and expanding people-to-people links. The Indian diaspora in Australia is making a tangible contribution to enhancing bilateral links. Mr Smith and Mr Mukherjee called for more youth exchanges in various fields, including between young professionals, to build up connections and take the Australia-India relationship forward over the coming decades. Australia agreed to forward a proposal for sending a group of Australian Youth Ambassadors to India in the near future.

Sport has long been a strong bond between Australia and India. Taking our well-established cricket relationship in a new direction, ministers welcomed the decision of the Australia India Council to fund training programs for some of India’s rising young women cricketers. They also acknowledged the good work of the Australian Sports Outreach Program (ASOP), which provides funding for sports projects in disadvantaged communities. ASOP will fund up to three projects in India over the next 12 months.

Media inquiries