India, Australia sign two vital treaties(Lead)

June 23rd, 2008 - 7:20 pm ICT by IANS  

By Neena Bhandari
Canberra, June 23 (IANS) India and Australia Monday signed two vital treaties on extradition and mutual legal assistance as their Foreign Ministers Framework Dialogue was revived after a gap of three years. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee underlined the strong bonds and enduring shared interests which underpin this bilateral relationship.

Smith and Mukherjee signed an extradition treaty and a mutual legal assistance treaty, underscoring the willingness of the two countries to collaborate and address criminal matters in a practical way.

In a joint statement, they reaffirmed the two governments’ commitment to taking bilateral links to a new, higher level.

Smith announced he will visit India in September.

The ministers reiterated their strong support for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The two countries decided to establish regular talks at the level of the chief of defence force with the inaugural talks scheduled to take place in Australia in the near future.

They agreed to strengthen intelligence cooperation, including on counter-terrorism issues. They noted the need for practical cooperation in areas such as intelligence, law enforcement, border security and counter-terrorist financing and money laundering.

The ministers discussed at length existing and new forms of cooperation in a wide range of areas, which exemplify the growing depth and breadth of this partnership.

The issues discussed include enhanced regional cooperation between the two countries, including in the context of the East Asia Summit.

On Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s ‘Asia Pacific Community’ proposal, Mukherjee said he would “follow with interest Australia’s initiative”.

While reiterating Australia’s strong support for a permanent seat for India on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Smith also highlighted Australia’s firm support for India’s membership of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping when the membership moratorium ends in 2010.

Mukherjee welcomed Australia’s bid for a non-permanent UNSC seat for the 2013-14 term and said India supported its application for the observer status at meetings of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).

The other issues where India and Australia could cooperate include the current food security, energy security and climate change challenges facing the world. The ministers announced the creation of a new bilateral water dialogue to share ideas about the best way to tackle scarce water resources.

Australia will allocate up to A$10 million for targeted technical assistance to build public sector linkages between the two countries. Projects funded under the scheme will address pressing public policy issues in the field of agriculture, climate change, water and resource management.

Smith and Mukherjee also announced a new forum, the Australia-India Roundtable convened by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute for International Policy and the New Delhi-based Indian Council for World Affairs, to extend the political partnership between the two countries.

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