Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong announced on Tuesday that Australia will host the Indian Ocean Conference in Perth in February next year. Wong highlighted that the conference will serve as an opportunity to deliberate on practical solutions for the key challenges facing the Indian Ocean region.
During a press briefing on the India-Australia Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue, Wong expressed her satisfaction in confirming Australia’s role in hosting the conference. She stated, “It’s an opportunity to discuss practical solutions for the key challenges facing the region. And I also look forward to welcoming Jaishankar to Australia,” referring to India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
The Indian Ocean Conference, initiated in 2016 in Singapore, has grown into a consultative forum featuring 30 countries. Over the years, it has evolved as a platform for critical states and maritime partners in the region to discuss regional affairs. The conference aims to foster cooperation for Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).
Wong, who recently met with Jaishankar in New Delhi for the Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue, emphasized the importance of collaboration between India and Australia in the Indian Ocean region. She stated, “We discussed, amongst other things, our work in the Indian Ocean region, how we can collaborate on shared challenges, climate change, maritime security, the health of the oceans.”
Acknowledging the shared interests of India and Australia as nations situated at either end of the Indian Ocean, Wong stressed the significance of their cooperation. She mentioned ongoing efforts to expand collaboration, including through a new 1.5-track strategic dialogue.
In addition to the conference announcement, Wong shared details about an Australia-India Audio Visual Coproduction agreement, aimed at enhancing cultural exchanges in the film industry.
Highlighting the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries and their Quad partnership, Wong expressed the importance of working together for a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. She also commended India’s role in the G20 and expressed eagerness to collaborate on the upcoming Quad meeting hosted by India.
On Australia-China relations, Wong emphasized a balanced approach, stating, “…China is a country with whom we will continue to engage. We will cooperate where we can, disagree where we must, and engage in our national interests.” Wong reaffirmed the value Canberra places on its bilateral relationship with New Delhi, considering it crucial to the region where sovereignty is respected.