Australia announces regional connectivity initiative in S Asia with India as pivot

Narendra Modi in Madhya Pradesh

Australian Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, on Wednesday sought to develop a deep strategic partnership with India, helping its role as, strategic anchor in the region.

Delivering the Ministerial Address at the fourth edition of Raisina Dialogue here on Wednesday, Payne said that as competition intensifies, Australia and India have shared interests in ensuring the peaceful development of an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo‑Pacific region.

The Minister announced that Australia would help in building regional economic connectivity in South Asia through Canberra’s new South Asia Regional Infrastructure Connectivity initiative, known as SARIC.

A $25-million programme over four years, which will begin this year, will aim at improving the quality of infrastructure and investment, particularly in the transport and energy sectors.

A particular goal of the SARIC initiative will be to deploy Australia’s expertise in these sectors and to leverage our comparative advantage in infrastructure policy and financing – such as in infrastructure financing and public-private partnerships, well-known to our processes in Australia.

She stated Australia believes that all nations have a responsibility to work together to keep the Indo-Pacific open, prosperous and stable and also to promote and protect the international rules that support stability and prosperity and enable cooperation to tackle global challenges — expected and unexpected.

Payne stated Australia also wants to help build stronger regional institutions and norms that manage regional peace and security and that promote openness, support resilience among regional countries to withstand coercion and shape opportunities in their national interest and work with partners to protect and shape rules that promote economic growth, trade liberalization, and open markets. She pointed out that the determination to build a positive future is not just an Australian view but also strongly shared by India.

The Minister noted that this is a challenging period, as Indo-Pacific countries face an uncertain strategic period, with great power transitions and growing strategic rivalry. “For Australia, building on our successful partnership with India is critical. Together, we can best support shared interests in the Indian Ocean. We shouldn’t be doing that only for ourselves though, but for all of our friends and partners in the immediate Indian Ocean region and beyond, and in a way that is truly open and free for all nations,” she added.

Payne also underlined the required for the creation of Indian Ocean Regional Architecture.

She said Australia and India enjoyed strategic convergence and economic cooperation and a strategic partnership with India is critical for her country to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

She said Australia is playing its role in building regional links with nations in the Pacific region and improving maritime cooperation. She pointed out that Australia had stepped up its security cooperation with India. The Minister’s address was followed by a panel discussion on ‘Indo-Pacific: Ancient Waters and Emerging Geometries’ in which the chief of Indian Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba, US Indo-Pacific Commander Admiral Philip S. Davidson, France’s Chief of Naval Staff Admiral ChristophePrazuck, Chief of Joint Staff, Japan Self Defences, Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano and chief of the Defence Force, Australia, General Angus J. Campbell.

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