Melbourne, Dec.3 : New Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith today said that he saw India playing an increasingly important role in international relations related to his country, while outlining the foreign policy agenda.
Only hours after being sworn in as the nation's 35th foreign minister, the West Australian MP addressed Canberra's diplomatic corps and staff at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at its annual Christmas function.
While reiterating the primacy of Australia's relationship with the United States, Smith singled out India as a nation with which he envisaged closer ties.
"I believe it is essential to ensure that Australia looks to our important neighbours and partners to our west. India's remarkable development only encourages me to bring us closer together. I look forward to working with the Indian government and the Indian people to add depth and vigour to our relationship," The Age quoted Smith, as saying.
One of Smith's first duties as foreign minister will be to meet US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns, during his visit to Australia this week, to discuss the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
Smith is expected to head to Washington for talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice early next year, but will begin preliminary discussions with Burns this week.
A central pledge of Labor's foreign policy - and one of its key differences from the coalition - was its plan to begin a phased withdrawal of Australia's 550 combat troops in Iraq.
Labor has set the middle of next year as the end point of the mission and the latest deployment - which departed Australia last month for a six-month rotation - is expected to be the last.
The US embassy in Canberra indicated Burns would meet "Australian leaders" but Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's office could not immediately confirm if he would meet the American official.
Rudd, a one-time Labor foreign affairs spokesman and former diplomat, is expected to take a strong interest in Labor's foreign policy agenda.
His first official act as prime minister on Monday was a foreign policy promise - the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.
And he will head to Bali next week to head Australia's negotiations on a post-Kyoto framework. (ANI)
© 2007 ANI