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Senate Estimates: Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee: Department of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade: Foreign Affairs Portfolio (South and West Asia)

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 4 Nov 2016

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Senator RHIANNON: I want to ask about the situation with Kashmir, please. Have the Australian high commissions in India and Pakistan provided an update on the current situation with regard to Pakistan, and what communications has the minister and the department had with the Indian government and the Pakistan government about this issue?

Ms Klugman: The Australian high commissions in Islamabad and New Delhi are reporting frequently and with a great deal of focus to us on developments in the recently increased tensions between those two countries. The situation with India and Pakistan matters a great deal to regional security in south Asia and more broadly, so it has been a matter of real focus to us. You asked about communications with those governments?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes. The question was: has an update on the current situation with regard to Kashmir been provided and could you share that with us, please?

Ms Klugman: Our high commissions have been updating us on the situation there through the normal diplomatic communications. I am not in a position, given the classification, to release that reporting.

Senator RHIANNON: Is that for security reasons?

Ms Klugman: These are classified reports of the same nature that we receive from our network of embassies and high commissions overseas on matters, including matters with some sort of security implication. What I can tell you though is that by way of recent communications that we have had with those governments—thinking back—most recently I met with the Pakistan high commissioner earlier this week, on 18 October, and I expressed Australia's concern over heightened tensions over Kashmir. I urged restraint, which is the position and the urgings that successive Australian governments have undertaken with the two principal countries involved in this issue for many, many years.

Senator RHIANNON: Has the same been conveyed to the Indian high commissioner? Ms Klugman: We discussed the same issue with India—most recently, with India's high commissioner to Australia on 29 September, which was the day on which, as you might recall, Senator, India announced that it had undertaken some 'surgical strikes', as they called them, across the line of control.

Senator RHIANNON: This might be a question for you, Ms Adamson. Considering that India is becoming a major trading partner, are there plans to arrange an annual dialogue with India on human rights issues, as is in place for our other major trading partner in the region, China, in the form of the Australia-China human rights dialogue that was set up as long ago as 1997?

Ms Adamson: I will ask Ms Klugman to address that question.

Ms Klugman: We do not have in place—I think you know this, from your question—a specific human rights dialogue with India as part of the suite of our annual and other discussions between the two countries. We do have many other regular meetings in which human rights matters can be raised, and are raised where they need to be and where that is appropriate. At the officials level, the one that is most relevant when it comes to human rights discussions would be our annual senior officials talks. In addition to that, as you know, we have annual meetings between prime ministers and we have annual meetings between ministers of the Australian government and ministers of the Indian government across approximately five portfolios. We also engage with India on human rights matters multilaterally. The most relevant one there is probably through the Human Rights Council in Geneva, where we provide submissions and comments when India, as a member state, comes up for its universal periodic review, just as India makes comments on other members when they are up for universal periodic review. That UPR process last turned its attention to India back in, I think, late 2012 and Australia made a statement.

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