Australia is an important partner in the implementation of the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative tabled by India, as well as in the post-COVID economic rebalancing through building more resilient supply chains, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.
Responding to a question at a media briefing on the conversation between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Australian counterpart Marise Payne earlier this week, and if they discussed the recent Australia-China controversy, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava, said given the depth and importance of bilateral relations, the two countries exchanged views on regional and global developments as well as current issues of concern.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday had demanded an apology from the Chinese government for tweeting a "falsified" and "repugnant" image of an Australian soldier killing a child in Afghanistan, amid escalating political tensions between Canberra and Beijing.
Asked about the conversation between Mr Jaishankar and Ms Payne on Tuesday, Mr Srivastava said, "Australia is an important partner in the implementation of the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative tabled by India, as well as in the post-COVID economic rebalancing through building more resilient supply chains."
India and Australia enjoy a strong bilateral relationship and both are democratic nations with shared values based on commitments to a rule-based global order, he said.
At the media briefing, Mr Srivastava also said the ships of Indian Navy and the Russian federation Navy will be conducting passage exercise or PASSEX.
"This exercise is tentatively scheduled for December 3 and 4 and will be held in the Bay of Bengal. India and Russia are longstanding strategic partners and we share a special and privileged partnership. This proposed PASSEX will maintain the continuity of maritime operational engagement between the two sides," he said.
Keeping in view the restrictions related to COVID-19, the PASSEX with the Russian federation Navy will be conducted as a "non- contact, at sea only event".
To another question on whether India has invited UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade next month, Mr Srivastava said the announcement regarding the chief guest is made closer to the event and as and when there is something to share, he will do so.
Asked when the Nepalese Foreign Minister would visit India, Mr Srivastava said Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had extended EAM Jaishankar's invitation to the Nepali foreign minister to visit India for the joint commission meeting. The dates for the visit are still being worked out, he said.
To another question on Mr Jaishankar's talks in the UAE during his recent visit specially on job issues of Indians in that country, Mr Srivastava said the external affairs minister had called on the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on November 25 and Ruler of Dubai who is also the Prime Minister and Vice President of UAE Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on November 29 during his stopover in Dubai on the way back from Seychelles.
He held discussions with his counterpart, the Foreign Minister of UAE, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on November 26.
During the visit, a range of bilateral, regional and multilateral issues were discussed, including the welfare of the Indian community, Mr Srivastava said.
EAM Jaishankar thanked the UAE leadership for taking excellent care of the Indian community during the pandemic and the UAE leadership was also effusive in its praise for the Indian community, he said.
"As UAE returns to normalcy their leadership also assured EAM that they would give India's request due consideration," Mr Srivastava said.
Giving an update on the Vande Bharat Mission, he said as on December 3, 34.1 lakh Indians have been repatriated through different modes of the Vande Bharat Mission through Air India flights, private and foreign carriers, chartered flights, naval ships and land border crossings.
"Phase 8 of VBM, operational since November 1, 2020, has been extended to be operational until 31 December 2020. Under this extended phase, called Phase 8+, 897 international flights have been scheduled to operate from 15 countries, with a capacity to repatriate an estimated 1.5 lakh people," Mr Srivastava said.
In addition to this, flights operated under bilateral air bubble arrangements with 18 countries continue to be operated smoothly, he said.