The Quad is crucial in terms of the power balance in southeast Asia and the growing partnership with India is important in terms of a “shared view” about what happens in the region, Australian foreign minister Penny Wong told NDTV in an exclusive interview today.
India and Australia, she said, share “democratic traditions, which we value, democratic institutions, which we value, and interests about the sort of region we want to live in… it is peaceful, stable and prosperous, a region where sovereignty is respected, and so we’re working together to ensure that occurs,” she said.
Asked how Australia sees its relationship with China as opposed to Quad, often seen as an “anti-China alliance”, Ms Wong — who is in Delhi for the second India-Australia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogues — said Australia will continue to engage with China and disagree where it is needed.
The Quad, she said, is a group of countries who are looking to “what is happening in our region, looking to deliver value to the countries of the region”.
“They are countries which do have a shared view about the importance of the international system, the international rule of law, trading arrangements which are transparent and fair. And it is a good thing that we work together and it’s a very important partnership,” she said.
Quad, a four-nation alliance of US, Japan, Australia and India, was revived in 2017 and one of its key drivers was China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region. India is seen by a section as a possible counterweight to China, both in terms of economy and geo-politics.
Asked about China’s role in the region, Ms Wong said Australia focuses on the “importance of the observance of international law”.
“Australia is a middle power. We rely greatly on the international system. So when we look at the South China Sea or training arrangements, what we see is the importance of countries like India and Australia asserting that rules which have been agreed norms which have been agreed are observe,” she added.
The next meet of Quad is due in January. There are hopes that trade talks between India and Australia will be part of the agenda.
Asked about the matter, Ms Wong said there is a “bit of work to do”.
“We already have an agreement between our two countries, which, provides a lot of tariff free engagement, tariff free trade… It is going to take work from both sides…. (which have to) deal with some of the sensitive issues in their own economy,” she said.