India, Australia should aim for strategic partnership: Smith

      Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith on Thursday said India and Australia were natural partners and both needed to become strategic allies. "I have again been struck by how many important interests Australia and India have in common, from trade and investment to regional security to tackling climate change. Our relationship is broad and it continues to grow. Australia will continue to work hard to take India to the front-line of our international partnerships, to the front rank of our bilateral relationships," said Smith during his speech on "Australia and India: A Convergence of Interests". Taking about his first speech as Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, in December 2007 in which he had stated that Australia needed to do much more with its relationship with India, Smith said: "Tonight, I leave India more convinced than ever that Australia and India have a strong convergence of interests. We are natural partners. And we should become strategic partners." "Minister Krishna and I conducted the sixth Australia-India Foreign Ministers' Framework Dialogue, and agreed both Governments should continue to advance bilateral, regional and international cooperation between our two countries," Smith informed. Smith said India is once again assuming the mantle of global influence reflecting its economic size and strength, its strategic weight, and its rich history. "Australia recognises that global economic, strategic and political influence is shifting to the Asia-Pacific." Smith said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh encapsulated India's potential elegantly, when he said: "I am convinced that the 21st century will be an Indian Century. The world will once again look at us with regard and respect, not just for the economic progress we make but for the democratic values we cherish and uphold and the principles of pluralism and inclusiveness we have come to represent which is India's heritage." "Australia shares these values and virtues," said Smith while adding: "We also share India's wish to play a constructive role in world affairs. These values and aspirations lie at the heart of the new relationship between our two nations." "Australia looks forward to working with India in the G20 to reshape international financial institutions to better reflect the modern world. As founding members, Australia and India have demonstrated a long-standing commitment to the United Nations. We share a firm commitment to finding global solutions to the challenges no country can face on its own," Smith said. "We want the United Nations to reflect these realities and we strongly support a permanent seat for India on a reformed Security Council. Australia supports India's bid for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council for the 2012-2013 term," said the Australian Foreign Minister. "India is not, so far, a member of APEC, but it is Australia's strong view that India should be made a member when APEC's membership moratorium ends in 2010," he added. "Australia also values its participation in the key South Asian regional body, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), to which with India's support we have been granted observer status," Smith said. Smith also informed Australia and India were developing a substantial relationship in the minerals and petroleum resources and the energy sector. On the issue of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, the Australian minister Smith said: "The Australia and India Governments have similar views on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. We also understand and respect each other's position on the sale of uranium and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. The strength of our relationship is reflected in the capacity of both Governments to work beyond this different policy approach." "Trade with India has grown faster than any of our other major partners over the past five years, and India is now Australia's fifth largest export market for goods and services. India is rapidly moving to become our third largest export market," Smith said.

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