Perth/Canberra (Australia), June 5 (ANI): Defence Ministers of India and Australia-A K Antony and Stephen Smith have agreed to continue and enhance bilateral defence consultations and cooperation, besides discussing issues concerning the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions in bilateral and multilateral fora.
A joint statement issued after the ministers had met in Perth on June 4 and in Canberra on June 5, said both leaders discussed and reviewed progress of strategic and security interests, including maritime security and bilateral defence cooperation.
They also exchanged ideas concerning regional and international security as well as defence cooperation and exchanges between Australia and India.
Antony and Smith acknowledged deepening strategic and defence cooperation between Australia and India, and agreed to continue to contribute to the peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and to promote cooperation in the Indian Ocean region.
The two ministers, according to the joint statement, took note of the progress made in defence cooperation, in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Cooperation concluded in 2006, the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation issued during the visit of the Australian Prime Minister to India in 2009 and the Joint Statement issued during Prime Minister Julia Gillard's visit to India in 2012.
They agreed that interactions held between the defence establishments of both sides in a variety of fields and at various levels have been mutually beneficial. Both sides were pleased with the bilateral architecture established for pursuing defence cooperation and agreed that consultations have helped in deepening mutual trust and understanding between the defence establishments.
Both took note of the growing cooperation between the navies of both countries.
Antony also accepted Smith's invitation for Indian naval ship participation in the International Fleet Review to be held in Sydney in October 2013.
Both sides acknowledged that maritime security and freedom of navigation in accordance with principles of international law is critical for the growth and prosperity of the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.
The ministers agreed to continue consultations and cooperation on issues concerning the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions both bilaterally and multilaterally, including through the East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus), Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) and the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC).
They noted both countries are already cooperating through the IONS, which Australia will Chair next year, along with hosting the IONS Conclave of Chiefs in Perth in March 2014, and the IOR-ARC of which India is currently Chair and Australia the next Chair.
Both Antony and Smith recalled the contributions made by the Indian and ANZAC forces during the Gallipoli campaign and agreed to commemorate their contributions by launching a publication during the Gallipoli Centenary celebrations in 2015.
Both Ministers agreed to the following activities:
i. to continue to have regular bilateral Defence Ministers' Meetings;
ii. to promote exchanges between the defence establishments and the Armed Forces of both sides, including through the regular conduct of the Defence Policy Dialogue, Armed Forces Staff Talks and professional military exchanges;
iii. to continue ongoing bilateral Naval exchanges to build confidence and familiarity between our Navies and work towards a bilateral maritime exercise in 2015;
iv. to continue to cooperate in the Asia-Pacific region bilaterally and through various multilateral fora including the EAS, ARF and ADMM-Plus;
v. to enhance Indian Ocean cooperation, including through the framework and priorities of the IONS and the IOR-ARC; and
vi. to promote the sharing and exchange of professional knowledge and experiences through participation in training courses in each other's military training institutions.
Antony thanked Smith for the friendly hospitality extended during his visit to Australia, and invited the latter to visit India at a convenient time. (ANI)