Thursday, October 10, 2013

Interaction with Australian Associate Secretary of Defence

On October 3, 2013, Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) organized a Round Table Discussion with the Australian Associate Secretary and Chief Operating Officer in the Ministry of Defence Mr Brendan Sargeant. In his welcoming remarks, Mr Prabhat P Shukla, Joint Director, VIF, pointed out that the two countries were among each other’s top 10 trading partners and the Indian Ocean was drawing the two nations closer. Besides, the burgeoning Indian diaspora and the common interest in cricket were also key factors in fostering people to people relations between the two countries, he said. He also added that there were frictions in the past between the two countries, but these were now well and truly behind us, and the future looked promising. He added that while India was working closely with its partner-countries in the Asia-Pacific Region, it also had concerns regarding its land borders, and hoped for understanding of these concerns on the part of its partners.

Mr Sargeant, who led the six member Australian delegation, said his country was deeply conscious of the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific region, the significance of the Indian Ocean, and was drawing closer to Asian security structures. He said that the Asia-Pacific Region had seen unprecedentedly high rates of growth in recent decades, not only in China, but India and other countries too. The architecture of the region was not ready to deal with the challenges, posed by these developments, as well as those raised by the political and other disputes in the region. It was the Australian assessment that there was no reason to believe that these issues would inevitably lead to tensions, particularly among the major states in Asia. He specifically said that there was no reason to expect that there would necessarily be antagonism between the US and China.
Australia also had a special role in the South Pacific, where it was the main source of aid and development assistance, and provided stability to the best of its ability.

In the discussions that followed, the two sides touched upon whether history provided any example of a peaceful shift of power from one country to another, if indeed a shift were to happen; they also touched on the likely scenarios to emerge in and around Afghanistan after the draw-down of ISAF forces in 2014. Terrorism was a source of common concern to both countries. The two delegations agreed that Indo-Australian relations were developing satisfactorily, and were a source of stability in the region.

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