India, Australia call for ‘open’ Asia-Pacific zone

Continuing with the strategic bilateral discussion, Australia and India on Tuesday discussed the need to maintain the Asia-Pacific region as a “free” and “open” zone under the “2+2” dialogue model which includes the foreign and defence secretaries of both sides. The discussion was the first meeting of this level since the two sides participated in the quadrilateral discussion for a new strategic partnership targeting the Asia-Pacific region.

“Both sides agreed that a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large. There is a growing convergence of strategic perspectives between the two countries,” said a press statement from the Ministry of External Affairs.

The “2+2” dialogue of Tuesday was held between Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra and their Australian counterparts Frances Adamson and Greg Moriarty. The dialogue indicated that the focus remains on freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where China has been reclaiming land for infrastructure, boosting its maritime influence.

“All aspects of bilateral relations with a focus on strategic and defence relations between the two countries were reviewed,” the MEA said. Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull and PM Modi had met on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Manila in November.

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