S. Jaishankar Lisa Singh at the Australia India Institute

Dr S. Jaishankar, India’s minister for External Affairs visited Australia last week for QUAD security talks meeting his counterparts from Australia, the US and Japan. Dr S. Jaishankar also met the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Anthony Albanese Federal leader of the Opposition and Federal Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke.

In what can only be described as a packed whirlwind tour, first for him to Australia, Dr S. Jaishankar also visited the Australia India Institute, University of Melbourne and joined Ms Lisa Singh, the CEO for a scintillating and inspiring exchange of views in a short fireside chat and Q & A.

Dr. Jaishankar was welcomed by Prof Duncan Maskell, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne before Dr Jaishankar in his disarmingly simple style spoke of the importance of QUAD and Australia India’s bilateral relations in his keynote address.

Prof Michael Wesley, the Deputy Vice Chancellor International of the University of Melbourne and Prof Ashok Muthupandian Assistant Deputy Vice Chancellor International, and former foreign minister of Australia and now Chancellor, Australian National University Prof Gareth Evans also attended the session.

Dr Jaishankar arrived at the University of Melbourne session after his meetings with many Australian leaders including Anthony Albanese & Penny Wong and Minister Hawke who also attended the University of Melbourne session.

During the fireside chat Q&A, Gareth Evans asked Dr Jaishankar to explain on India’s position on army once again annexing the power in Myanmar and the plight of minorities.

Dr Jaishankar listed India’s magnanimous donations of COVID vaccines, food and offering assistance along Myanmar’s tough terrain areas along the border with India.

Highlighting how it was wrong to only paint India’s role there in a fixed hue, Dr Jaishankar highlighted the hypocrisy of the Western world in treating Army rule in Pakistan under Genral Parvez Musharraf so differently to the Army rule in Myanmar under Than Shwe at the same time when India was grappling with the two – one on the East and one on the West.

Also read: Former Labor politician Lisa Singh appointed new CEO of the Australia India Institute

Listening to the myriad of a million unsaid words of Dr S. Jaishankar, Prof Evans nodded sitting in his seat, perhaps accepting the explanation in part.

At the meeting of Dr S. Jaishankar and Minister Hawke, the leaders spoke about the challenges and opportunities for Australia’s growing Indian diaspora, and to engage with members of the Indian Australian community in Victoria.

The two leaders met ahead of the fourth Quad Foreign Ministers’ meeting to discuss issues including changes in the Indo-Pacific region, the important contribution of the Indian diaspora in Australia, the reopening of Australia’s international border, and celebrations to mark this year’s 75th anniversary of Indian Independence.

“Today’s discussion emphasised the importance of India to both Australia and the world, changes in the region over the coming years, and the role of the Indian-Australian community in strengthening our relationship further,” Minister Hawke said.

“The Australia India Institute plays a critical role in promoting and enhancing our important relationship with India. I am sure the India Matters program will help to foster more conversations and more bonds between our nations,” Minister Hawke said speaking at the Australia India Institute.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcoming the leaders said:

“… on behalf of all Australians, Indians and the Japanese, we we really do welcome the quality of this partnership and the importance of this partnership to all of our partners. And I thank you very much for being here”.

Acknowledging how important QUAD is to Australia and all partners, the PM added:

“We live in a very fragile, fragmented and contested world, and that is no more accentuated than here in our Indo-Pacific, and the like-minded partners that we see gathered together in this Quad, I always find so incredibly reassuring. I’m reassured by our perspective. I’m reassured by the understanding that is shared between each of us. I am reassured by the incredible, strong support that Australia has received by our Quad partners, and I just don’t mean in a security context. I mean that in terms of our economic partnership and cooperation. I mean that in our humanitarian partnership. I I mean that in terms of how each of us stands for a world order that favours freedom, and particularly here in a free and open Indo-Pacific. And I want to thank you for all of that.”

Inaugural India-Australia Foreign Ministers Cyber Framework Dialogue
While Dr S. Jaishankar was in Australia, the bilateral relationship between the two countries became even stronger with the two countries establishing an India-Australia Foreign Ministers Cyber Framework Dialogue when the two leaders met outside of QUAD.

In a Joint Statement issued by the two leaders also welcomed the scheduling of the inaugural Joint Working Group on Information Communication Technologies in March 2022.

An Eight point Joint Statement has been issued highlighting the elevation of the Cyber Security and technological relationship of the two nations forming part of the overall Comprehensive Economic partnership being worked out. Australia’s Trade Minister is in India to further progress the talks.

Dr S. Jaishankar was asked about the trouble between Russia and Ukraine and invited to state of India thought Russia’s actions were ‘appropriate’.

Refraining from falling into the trap, Dr S. Jaishankar said,we have laid it (India’s position on Ukraine) out in public at the UN Security Council.”

Concluding his visit to Melbourne, Dr S. Jaishankar met a group of local Indians. The Indian diaspora he said were “key partners in this new phase of our (Australia India) ties.”

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