External affairs minister S Jaishankar met his Australian opposite number Penny Wong on Tuesday and discussed extremism and India’s diplomatic spat with Canada. The two ministers met in New Delhi as part of the 14th Foreign Ministerial Framework Dialogue.
“I spoke about it (the situation with Canada) to minister Wong. As you know, Australia has a good, strong and close relationship with both of us. So I felt it was important that Australia get our perspective on the issue. You know that, from our point of view, the key issue is really the space which has been given to extremism and radicalism in Canada," said Jaishankar at a press briefing.
This came just weeks after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused India of violating the Vienna Convention by revoking the diplomatic immunity of 40 Canadian diplomats in India.
India had requested parity in rank and strength between the diplomatic missions of the two countries. Ottawa says there are “credible allegations" that agents of the Indian government involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canada-based pro-Khalistan extremist, earlier this year—a claim New Delhi rejects. These accusations led to a swift deterioration in diplomatic ties between New Delhi and Ottawa. Talks on a free trade agreement stalled, diplomats were expelled and India requested Canada to effectively reduce its diplomatic presence in India.
These accusations also provoked reactions from major powers like the US, UK and Australia, which had been briefed by Canada on the allegations. Wong, however, did not make a detailed comment when asked about the India-Canada spat. While Wong had termed Trudeau’s allegations “concerning" in September, the Australian government has avoided taking a clear stand on the issue. Reports in the international media indicated that the Five Eyes intelligence grouping, of which Australia is a member, chose to avoid publicly backing Canada on its allegations.
However, Australia’s intelligence chief stated in a later interview that he had no reason to dispute Canada’s allegations.
Meanwhile, defence minister Rajnath Singh also met with his Australian counterpart Richard Marles on Monday. “The two sides are in an advanced stage of discussion to conclude implementing arrangements on hydrography cooperation, and cooperation for air-to-air refuelling," according to the Indian defence ministry.
Singh suggested that the two countries cooperate on artificial intelligence, anti-submarine and anti -drone warfare, and cyber technologies. Shipbuilding as well as maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) collaboration was also mooted during the meeting. “The two ministers also discussed cooperation for joint research in underwater technologies. Collaboration between the defence start-ups of both the countries, including that for solving challenges jointly, was discussed by the ministers," the release went on to say.
The bilateral defence relationship has deepened substantially since 2020, when both countries signed a Mutual Logistics and Supply Agreement (MLSA). A slew of military exercises, like Malabar and AUSTRA HIND, have improved military interoperability.
The need to protect a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region was a common theme during the talks. The issue of China, which has clashed with both New Delhi and Canberra in recent years, was also a focus. Marles pointed out that for both countries, China was a large trading partner as well as a “security anxiety
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