Sun, 26 Sep 2021

New Delhi [India], September 12 (ANI): Expressing deep concerns about the situation in Afghanistan, India and Australia have agreed to remain alert to the broader "repercussions" of the developments in the war-torn country for the ongoing terrorist threats around the world.

In a 35-point elaborate joint statement on the inaugural India-Australia 22 Ministerial Dialogue on Saturday, the two countries' foreign and defence ministers reiterated calls on those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan to adhere to counterterrorism commitments and human rights, in accordance with UNSCR 2593, which was adopted last month.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar participated in the meeting.

According to a joint statement following the talks, the ministers noted reports of a rapid rollback on women and girls' rights and access to services and public spaces, as well as targeted violence against women's rights defenders.

"The ministers reiterated their call for protection of rights of women and children and their full participation in public life. Ministers agreed that a broad-based and inclusive government is necessary for long term peace and stability in Afghanistan," the joint statement read.

"Ministers also agreed to remain alert to the broader repercussions of the developments in Afghanistan for the ongoing terrorist threats around the world, and in our region," the statement added.

Addressing the press after the meeting, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday said India and Australia exchanged views on Afghanistan, maritime security in Indo-Pacific, and other issues concerning multilateral cooperation.

"Today we held comprehensive discussions with Minister Payne and Minister Dutton over bilateral and regional issues. We also discussed different institutional frameworks for defence cooperation and cooperation in the fight against the pandemic," said Singh while issuing a joint statement after the India-Australia 22 Ministerial Meeting.

"We also exchanged views on Afghanistan, maritime security in Indo-Pacific, multilateral cooperation, and other matters," he added.

Following the Taliban's takeover of Kabul in August, the situation in Afghanistan has been dominating the international agenda, with global stakeholders trying to find ways to ensure stability in the region.

During the meeting, the ministers of India and Australia held discussions on a wide range of issues including bilateral ties, Indo Pacific, terrorism, Quad and COVID-19 pandemic.

They welcomed the elevation of the India-Australia relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) during the Leaders' Virtual Summit held in June 2020 and noted with satisfaction the progress made in deepening bilateral cooperation in political, economic, security and defence-related matters.

The ministers reaffirmed their commitment to fully implement the CSP based on mutual trust and understanding, common interests and shared values of democracy and rule of law, according to the statement.

They reiterated the importance of advancing their shared objective of an open, free, prosperous and rules-based Indo-Pacific region, in line with India's increasing engagement in the Indo-Pacific region through the Indo-Pacific Oceans' Initiative and Australia's Indo-Pacific approach and Pacific Step-Up.

They strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, whenever, wherever, and by whom-so-ever committed and against the use of terrorist proxies for cross-border terrorism.

The ministers underlined the urgent need for all countries to take immediate, sustained, verifiable and irreversible action to ensure that no territory under their control is used for terrorist attacks and to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of such attacks.

"Australia reiterated its condemnation of terrorist attacks in India, including 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot and Pulwama attacks, and reiterated its support for the people and the Government of India in the fight against terrorism," the statement read.

The ministers committed to deepening Australia and India's economic relationship under the CSP.

"The Ministers appreciated the renewed commitment and progress made by both sides to achieve an early harvest announcement by December 2021 on an interim agreement to liberalize and deepen bilateral trade in goods and services, and pave the way for an early conclusion of a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement," the statement read.

The ministers looked forward to a balanced trade agreement that encourages expanded trade and investment flows to the benefit of the economies and peoples of both countries, the added. (ANI)

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