New Delhi: India and Australia on Tuesday backed a two-state solution to resolve the decades-old Israel-Palestine conflict and bring lasting peace to the troubled region where war erupted again after Hamas militants launched an assault against Israel on October 7 and the West Asian nation responded with a massive bombing campaign and ground invasion of Gaza.
S Jaishankar and Penny Wong, who met in New Delhi for the 14th India-Australia Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue, said the two-state solution — a recognised Palestinian state alongside Israel — was the way forward; even as the two leaders condemned the Hamas attack as an act of terror and called for observance of international humanitarian law in Gaza.
The two ministers made three broad points in relation to the ongoing developments in West Asia: there can be no compromise with terror, there’s an urgent need for humanitarian assistance in Gaza and the issue of rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people.
One of the issues relates to the rights and future of the Palestinians, and that too has to have a solution, Jaishankar said.
“And that solution in our view, and in the view of many countries, can only come from a two-state solution,” he said, in response to a question during a joint press briefing with Wong after the dialogue.
The Australian foreign minister spoke on similar lines.
“On the aspirations of the Palestinian people, I think what this shows us is that we do need a political solution. We do need to get to a point where we see both Israeli and Palestinian peoples living in peace and security behind international borders. And that progress to a two-state solution is required,” she said.
The Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue took place a day after the 2nd India and Australia 2+2 dialogue between the defence and foreign ministers of the two countries. Developments in West Asia figured in the discussions on Monday too.
Jaishankar described the situation in West Asia as complex and challenging.
“Today the consideration of the situation in West Asia is if you have these three broad sets of issues (terrorism, humanitarian crisis and future of Palestinians) …we have to find a way by which all of them are addressed,” he said.
“When we hear one asserted at the expense of the other, that is not really going to lead to a way forward. I think the challenge for all of us collectively is how do we deal with all of them. That is really what we discussed. My impression is that the Australian position is very similar to ours.”
Wong described the humanitarian situation in Gaza as dire and catastrophic.
Human suffering is widespread and the world is rightly engaged on this issue, she said.
“We share the view that what occurred on October 7 was an act of terrorism and it needs to be unequivocally condemned. We share the view that the hostages should be released and we repeat our call for that. On the humanitarian crisis, we have taken a very clear view which we have articulated publicly — the importance of international law and the need for Israel to observe in its actions international law including the protection of civilians,” she said.
Wong also said that Israeli settlements in the region were contrary to international law and unhelpful to progress towards the two-state solution.
Other key issues discussed by the two leaders included the India-Canada row; peace, prosperity and security in the Indo-Pacific region, and the way forward for the Quad grouping that includes the US and Japan.
“We discussed issues between India and Canada. Australia has a good, strong and close relationship with both of us. I felt it was important that Australia get our perspective on the issue. The key issue really is the space given to radicalism and extremism in Canada,” Jaishankar added.
The next Quad meeting is scheduled for early next year, he said.
“Every meeting has added to the agenda and substance of the Quad. There is a natural inclination to push the envelope to find new convergences to explore fresh areas of cooperation. We are preparing for a Quad meeting sometime early next year and our discussions centred around what more could we do to add to the Quad.”
The strategic partnership is making great strides, he said.
“Concluded the 14th India-Australia Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue with FM @SenatorWong. The strategic partnership is making great strides. Our frequent high level engagements, growing trade, investment and economic cooperation and robust people to people ties are big contributors. Discussed our close collaboration in trilateral, quadrilateral and multilateral formats. Also exchanged perspectives on our regions, Indo-Pacific and West Asia,” Jaishankar later wrote on Twitter.
At the 2+2 dialogue on Monday, the talks centered around deepening military cooperation in critical areas including anti-submarine warfare and air-to-air refuelling, security in the vast Indo-Pacific region amid China’s rising influence, hydrography cooperation and strengthening ties in sectors such as critical minerals, space, education, and science and technology.
The two sides also discussed pressing geopolitical issues including the crisis in West Asia and the war in Ukraine.