Australia supported FATF grey listing of Pak based on its performance on tackling terrorism: Envoy

NEW DELHI: Australia supported the grey-listing of Pakistan by the FATF and will make a fresh assessment as to whether it should be put on the 'Black List', outgoing Australian envoy Harinder Sidhu said on Wednesday.

Pakistan was placed on the 'Grey List' in June 2018 by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental body established in 1989 to combat money laundering, terror financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

During an interaction with a select group of journalists, the envoy said that "from Australia's perspective, when we say as part of our Indo-Pacific strategy we want to work with strong democracies in the region, one of India's great strengths is its pluralistic democratic tradition".

"We welcome that in India, we look to work with India as a partner in the region building on those traditions," she said.

When asked about the Kashmir issue and the prevailing situation in India in the wake of anti-CAA protests, Sidhu said it is "never appropriate for an envoy from another country to comment on the internal dynamics of any country".

On if she was asked to join the recent visit by envoys to Kashmir, Sidhu said she does not wish to comment on it.

Speaking about the FATF, the outgoing envoy asserted that "a very technical approach" was taken by it to place Pakistan on the 'Grey List'.

"We have continued to support the grey listing because our assessment on a technical basis has been that it has not met the requirements.

"Our approach to the FATF has been to take a very technical approach, that is, in fact, the most objective way to assess to what we are trying to get to: we really want to have a good outcome, which means Pakistan complying with the requirements that are imposed on it," Sidhu said.

"…We have taken a technical approach, we assess Pakistan's progress in objective terms against where it has got to thus far," she said.

The FATF currently has 35 members and two regional organisations -- the European Commission and the Gulf Cooperation Council. India is a member of the FATF consultations and its Asia Pacific Group.

Amid speculation that Pakistan will be put on the 'Black List' by the FATF, Sidhu said that "we will make the assessment when there is enough evidence to do that, no one can predict what the upcoming assessment can be".

Urging India to come back to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), she said from Australia's perspective "the door is wide open for India to return to the RCEP".

"That remains our position and in fact, it remains our hope that India would think about returning to the RCEP. We believe there is scope for India to negotiate on those issues that it is concerned about.

"It will be good for India and for the region if India joins the RCEP because it would deepen economic relations and political relations with India and reduce risks of India being excluded in economic cooperation," she said.

Talking about her tenure in India, Sidhu said the signature achievement of her time here has been the "incredible growth in the breath and depth" of the Australia-India relationship.

"We are in a very different place than we were in 2016 even though at that time there was a upward trajectory so what has changed since then I think we have seen an uptick in the pace of the bilateral ties, particularly when we look at the defence and strategic relationship," she said.

"It is very clear that the leading part of the bilateral relationship is the defence and strategic story. The pace of bilateral engagement at the ministerial level has grown dramatically as well. We have seen many many engagements in both the directions," Sidhi said.

On Indian energy giant Adani's coal mine project, she said work has begun.

The massive coal mine in Queensland state has been a controversial topic, with the project expected to produce 2.3 billion tonnes of low-quality coal.