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PM Modi, Australian counterpart Scott Morrison discuss Ukraine situation, China and Indo-Pacific

Noting that there was "serious concern" about the conflict and humanitarian situation in Ukraine, the foreign secretary said Modi and Morrison spoke about the need for a cessation of hostilities and violence.

PTI Reported by: PTI New Delhi Updated on: March 21, 2022 22:20 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a meeting with Australian
Image Source : SCREEN GRAB, @NARENDRAMODI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a meeting with Australian counterpart Scott Morrison during the India-Australia virtual summit.

Highlights

  • Scott Morrison expressed understanding of India's position on the issue of Ukraine
  • Morrison said the summit is taking place in the "very distressing" backdrop of the war in Europe
  • PM Modi said Quad's success is very important for regional and global stability

Russia must be held accountable for the tragic loss of lives in Ukraine and care must be taken to ensure that such "terrible events" never occur in the Indo-Pacific region, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday at a virtual summit with PM Narendra Modi.

At a media briefing after the summit, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said Morrison expressed understanding of India's position on the issue of Ukraine and that there was a clear sense that conflict in Europe "should not be a reason for us to divert our attention from the Indo-Pacific region".

Noting that there was "serious concern" about the conflict and humanitarian situation in Ukraine, the foreign secretary said Modi and Morrison spoke about the need for a cessation of hostilities and violence.

In his opening remarks, Morrison said the summit is taking place in the "very distressing" backdrop of the war in Europe and referred to a recent discussion by the Quad leaders on the "implications and consequences" of Russia's "unlawful invasion" of Ukraine for the Indo-Pacific.

Modi did not make any reference to the crisis in Ukraine in his opening remarks and said the Quad's success is very important for regional and global stability, noting that the cooperation between India and Australia reflected a common commitment to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

He said he was happy over the establishment of a mechanism of the annual summit between the two countries as it ensures a structural system for regular review of the ties.

"The tragic loss of life underlines the importance, of course, of holding Russia to account. But cooperation between like-minded liberal democracies is key to an open and inclusive and resilient and prosperous Indo-Pacific, and I welcome your leadership within the Quad to keep us focused on those important issues," Morrison said.

Morrison's strong comments came two days after Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, during summit talks with Modi, said the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a "very serious" matter that has "shaken" the roots of international order.

Unlike its Quad partners -- the US, Japan and Australia -- India has not condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and has been maintaining that the conflict should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy.

In his comments, the Australian Prime Minister also said that the Indo Pacific region is facing "increasing change and much pressure."

"While we are obviously distressed at the terrible situation in Europe, our focus, of course, is always very much on what is occurring in the Indo-Pacific and ensuring that those events could never occur here," Morrison said.

"Our region is facing increasing change and much pressure, and I think our Quad leaders' call recently, which gave us the opportunity to discuss Russia's unlawful invasion of Ukraine, but it also gave us the opportunity to discuss the implications and consequences of that terrible event for our own region in the Indo-Pacific and the coercion and the issues that we face here," Morrison said.

On his part, Modi apprised his Australian counterpart about the situation in eastern Ladakh and emphasised that peace and tranquillity in the region is an essential prerequisite for the normalisation of India's ties with China.

It was the second time in the last three days that India asserted that the relationship with China depends on the resolution of the pending issues in eastern Ladakh.

At the 14th India-Japan summit on Saturday, Modi had conveyed to Kishida also that India's ties with Beijing cannot be business as usual until peace is restored in the eastern Ladakh region. Shringla said both Modi and Morrison exchanged their perspectives on China.

"The Prime Minister did refer to the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh; the incidents of the previous year and he emphasised that peace and tranquillity in the border areas was an essential prerequisite for normalisation of relations with China," he said.

He said PM Morrison also gave a fairly detailed perspective of how he saw China and its actions in the region. Shringla said Morrison spoke especially about the situation in the South China Sea region.

On Ukraine, Morrison expressed understanding of India's position, which he felt was "definitely reflected our own situation (and) our own considerations", Shringla said during the briefing on the summit.

"There was a clear sense of both sides understood where they came from and there was a great deal of comfort in the fact that both of us saw the fact that conflict in Europe should not be a reason for us to divert our attention from the Indo-Pacific region and that our position as far as the Quad is concerned also was on similar lines," he said.

He said the two sides referred to the recent Quad meeting during which the leaders had a "clear perspective that the situation in Ukraine should not impact on the Indo-Pacific and that the focus and priority of the Indo-Pacific, for the Quad and for our countries, should continue."

Shringla said there was an equal emphasis by both that the international order stands on the UN Charter, rule of law and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of states.

Delving into key aspects of India-Australia ties, Modi said the conclusion of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) will be crucial for economic revival and economic security for both sides and noted the remarkable progress made in a very short time.

"I am confident that the remaining issues will also be agreed upon soon," he added.

Modi said the ties witnessed remarkable progress in the last few years and that there has been close cooperation between the two sides in trade and investment, defence and security, education and innovation, science and technology.

"Our relations have made remarkable progress in the last few years. Trade and investment, defence and security, education and innovation, science and technology -- we have very close cooperation in all these areas," he said.

"Our collaboration has grown rapidly in many other areas, such as critical minerals, water management, renewable energy, and Covid-19 research," Modi said.

He also welcomed the announcement of the establishment of the Centre of Excellence for Critical and Emerging Technology Policy in Bengaluru.

"It is imperative that we have better cooperation between us in cyber and critical and emerging technologies. It is the responsibility of countries with similar values like us to adopt appropriate global standards in these emerging technologies," he said.

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