NEW DELHI: India and Australia on Thursday unveiled a blueprint to promote peace, security and stability in the Indo-Pacific, a region where China has been trying expand its strategic heft by aggressively expanding its military and economic clout.
The two countries came out with a joint declaration titled Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo- Pacific after an online summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.
The document enlists resolve of the two countries to effectively navigate the changing geopolitical environment in the Indo-Pacific and vowed to work for a rules-based maritime order that is based on respect for sovereignty and international law.
It said India and Australia will work jointly towards implementation of an action plan with specific measures to advance their bilateral maritime cooperation in line with their vision for the region.
The renewed commitment by the two strategic partners came in the wake of China’s fresh efforts to expand its strategic influence in the resource-rich region.
“India and Australia have common concerns regarding the strategic, security and environmental challenges in the Indo-Pacific maritime domain. These include activities and actions in the maritime domain that are inconsistent with international law,” the two countries said in the declaration.
The two countries also vowed to deepen navy-to-navy cooperation, noting that they have a shared interest in promoting maritime security and safety in the region.
It said India and Australia are committed to supporting a rules-based maritime order that is based on respect for sovereignty and international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“India and Australia reiterate their commitment to promoting peace, security, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, which is vital for the world. As two key Indo-Pacific countries, India and Australia have an enduring interest in a free, open, inclusive and rules based Indo-Pacific region,” the document said.
It said the two countries have a shared interest in ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight in the Indo-Pacific region, and maintaining open, safe and efficient sea lanes for transportation and communication.
“With a shared maritime geography and a deep and long-standing friendship, India and Australia are natural partners to work together towards realisation of this shared vision,” the document said.
The two countries also reiterated their commitment to ASEAN centrality and unity, and resolved to strengthen their coordination in regional and multilateral fora, such as the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional grouping comprising 10 countries of Southeast Asia.
Australia and India are part of the influential “Quad” or Quadrilateral coalition which also comprised the US and Japan.
In November 2017, the four countries gave shape to the long-pending “Quad” coalition to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence.
The US has been pushing for a greater role for India in the Indo-Pacific which is seen by many countries as an effort to contain China’s growing clout in the region.

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