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Want to ‘constructively’ engage with China, says Australia ahead of 2+2 talks with India

Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Peter Dutton are in India for the inaugural '2+2 ministerial dialogue' between the two countries Saturday.

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New Delhi: Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said Friday that Canberra “wants to engage” with Beijing “constructively” and that the Quad framework — which includes Australia, India, Japan and the US — is “not aimed” at any one country.

On the eve of the inaugural ‘2+2 ministerial dialogue‘ between India and Australia, Payne, who reached India from Jakarta, also spoke about the crisis in Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban in the country. The foreign minister said that the events of 9/11 had shown that neither India nor Australia — both Indo-Pacific countries — are “immune from terrorism”.

“Multiple countries of the Indo-Pacific were not immune from the threats of terrorism that was spawned out from the events of 9/11,” she said at an event organised by the Observation Research Foundation (ORF) Friday.

She said the alliance with the US has never been stronger, even when it came to Afghanistan, and that America’s presence in the Indo-Pacific construct contributes to the “strategic balance”.

On China and its potential influence in Afghanistan, she said the relationship between Australia and China is “longstanding and of great importance.”

“We have watched and seen the rise of China. It has lifted millions and millions of people out of poverty and that rise has contributed to the strength and growth of the Indo-Pacific. But with growth comes, in our view, responsibilities and how one exercises it,” she said adding that Australia will also look at the advancement of its national interest.

“What we have seen in recent times has certainly presented challenges in the relationship because we have seen some of those actions have threatened Australia’s national interests,” she added.

Also read: Quad isn’t a NATO-like group. But can push China to form a Himalayan Quad

‘Quad is a diplomatic network’

Payne also made it clear that while Australia is ready to face China when its own interest is being threatened, the Quad is not aimed at it.

“Quad is a diplomatic network and it is not aimed at one country,” she said.

She also ruled out any expansion of the Quad framework.

“Effectiveness of the Quad lies in its genesis,” she said adding that it is not needed at the moment to either formalise it or to expand it.

Also read: India, US sign key defence cooperation pact as 2+2 dialogue begins

India-Australia ‘2+2’

India will host the inaugural 2+2 ministerial dialogue Saturday, which will take place between Payne and Australia’s Defence Minister Peter Dutton, and their respective Indian counterparts, S. Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh.

She said the ‘2+2’ will take forward the progress being made since both countries took their ties to the level of ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’.

She said she would want to see India participating in the military exercise — Talisman Sabre.

On trade, she noted that both sides will conclude an interim pact by the end of this year, which will be followed by the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).

Also read: Modi, Biden agree on Indo-Pacific but not so much on Quad, democratic values & Myanmar


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