Australia in favour of India getting permanent UNSC seat, says FM

New Delhi, Sept 11 : Describing India as a committed champion of multilateralism, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said on Thursday that New Delhi should be given a permanent seat on a reformed United Nations Security Council, so that the world body reflects the modern international geo-political reality.

He said that the extent to which India will be a rapidly growing is indicative of the positive force and influence it will have on the future of Asia.

Delivering a speech at the Indian Council of World Affairs here, Smith praised India''s ‘Look East’ policy, saying it clearly reflected the country''s growing engagement in Asia.

In this regard, he said, that Australia is "looking to the West", in the hope of increasing the scope for regional cooperation with India.

"India and Australia are both members of, and cooperate closely in, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit. India is not to date a member of APEC, but it is Australia’s strong view that India should be a member when the membership moratorium ends in 2010. We welcome the fact that India had concluded a Free Trade Agreement with ASEAN, just as Australia and New Zealand have concluded an FTA with ASEAN. We were also pleased that India supported Australia being granted observer status at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)," Smith said.

He also said that Australia is looking forward to attending its first SAARC Summit in the Maldives in 2009.

Suggesting that both India and Australia have an interest in a stable, prosperous region, Smith said: " The interests and values we share with India underpin common goals, such as, on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, our commitment to combat terrorism and extremism.

"It is absolutely essential in the course of this century that Australia takes its relationship with India to a new level, that we take our relationship with India to the front line of our international partnerships, and that is what this government, with a willing partner in the government of India, will do,” he added.

He said that Australia’s past approach to India has been like a 20/20 cricket match: short bursts of enthusiasm followed by lengthy periods of inactivity, but now, there was a need to "treat our relationship with India like a Test match."

India, he said, is playing its integral role in the historic shift in the centre of gravity of global economic, security and strategic power and influence to the Asia-Pacific.

"Having for many years grown at 8 to 9 per cent annually, India’s economy last year exceeded one trillion US dollars. Some forecast it will be the world’s third-largest economy by 2025. Australia is fortunate to be an active part of this economic transformation, not just a bystander. This underpins my optimism when I contemplate the Asia-Pacific Century of which India is so integral a part," he said.

Australia’s future as a nation state is linked to that of India and our other Asian and Pacific neighbours and partners. Our economic growth is powered by theirs. In turn, we make a substantial contribution to their growth, he added.

The fact the bilateral partnership between India and Australia was alive was reflected by the visit of seven Indian Ministers to Australia in the first nine months of this year, underscoring the growing depth and breadth of our relationship, Smith said.

"Australia sees an India that combines a remarkable pace of domestic development with an active role in the regional and international arena," Smith concluded. (ANI)