India-Australia 2+2 Dialogue: Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific and Other Key Issues Discussed

Foreign Affairs

 New Delhi: The high-level 2+2 foreign and defence ministerial dialogue began between India and Australia in New Delhi September 11. The inaugural ministerial dialogue is aimed at defence and strategic cooperation between the two countries, including in the Indo-Pacific amid China’s increasing military assertiveness in the region.

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“EAM Dr S Jaishankar & Defence Minister Rajnath Singh welcomed their Australian counterparts FM Marise Payne and Defence Minister Peter Dutton for the India-Australia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. Bilateral, regional and global issues on the agenda,” ministry of external affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Twitter.

EAM S Jaishankar and defence minister Rajnath Singh held the closed-door talks with their Australian counterparts Marise Payne and Peter Dutton. The in-person took place at a time the global focus has been on the situation in Afghanistan and was among the most important talking points in the meeting.

External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar said that Afghanistan was “a major subject of discussion”, while Defence Minister Rajnath Singh spoke about “peace and prosperity of the entire region” at the inaugural ‘2+2’ high-level foreign and defence ministerial dialogue between India and Australia.

“During the 2+2 Dialogue, we also exchanged views on developments in our neighbouring regions. Afghanistan was understandably, a major subject of discussion. We agreed that the international community must be united in its approach, guided by UNSC Resolution 2593,” External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in a press release after the ‘2+2’ meeting. “As members of the Quad, we recognized the importance of plurilateralism in a multi-polar and re-balanced world,” he added.

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After the meeting, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, “As two democracies we have a common interest in peace and prosperity of the entire region.”

“Today we have had in-depth and wide ranging discussion with Minister Payne and Minister Dutton on bilateral and regional issues. We have discussed various institutional frameworks for wide ranging collaboration including defence cooperation and fight against global pandemic. We exchanged views on Afghanistan, Maritime Security in the Indo-Pacific, cooperation in multilateral formats and other related topics,” he added.

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Rajnath Singh and the Australian defence minister, Peter Dutton, also discussed the fragile security situation in Afghanistan and their “common concerns” relating to the possible spread of terrorism from the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, “The 2+2 dialogue signifies the importance of the India Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. India and Australia share an important partnership which is based on a shared vision of free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. As two democracies we have a common interest in peace and prosperity of the entire region.” The ‘2+2’ ministerial dialogue between India and Australia was aimed at developing the overall defence and strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

He added, “In the context of Defence Cooperation, both sides were glad to note continued participation of Australia in the Malabar Exercises. We invited Australia to engage India’s growing defence industry and to collaborate in co-production and co-development of defence equipment.”

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said, “The 2+2 Dialogue reflects the comfort that we have attained in our bilateral relationship, especially in strategic and security spheres, based on the growing convergence with Australia on security issues and our shared commitment for a free, open, prosperous and rules-based Indo-Pacific region.”

“The peaceful development of the Indo-Pacific region has been a focus of our relationship. Our two countries believe that it should be shaped in a participative and collaborative manner. We reiterated our commitment to continue to work together for peace, stability and prosperity of all countries in the region.”

The foreign and defence ministers of India and Australia also spoke about the need to ensure free trade for “sustainable economic growth” in the region. The two nations emphasised the need for “decentralized globalisation” and for building secure and resilient global supply chains.

“During the discussions both sides emphasised the need to ensure free flow of trade, adherence to international rules and norms and sustainable economic growth in the entire region. On the bilateral defence cooperation we decided to expand military engagements across services, facilitate greater defence information sharing and to work closely for mutual logistic support,” Rajnath Singh said.

The External Affairs Minister said, “Decentralized globalization, strategic autonomy, sharper sense of national security are some of the relevant outcomes. We also underlined our commitments to creating secure and resilient global supply chains. We welcomed the renewed vigour with which both sides are now engaging on trade issues to fully expedite the complementarities between us.”

The relationship between India and Australia is at a historic high. Australia’s FM Ms Payne, speaking at an event at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) on September 10, said that India and Australia countries have made substantial progress in the first year of the strategic partnership adding that they should reflect on common ground that forms the basis of bilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

“In the context of strategic competition in our region, it’s timely that we (India and Australia) reflect on both complementarity and the common outlook that forms the basis of our cooperation in the Indo-Pacific,” she said. Ms Payne highlighted that India is on the trajectory of the global manufacturing hub and has become a key market for emerging technologies. She said Australia will contribute 10 million dollars to India’s initiative towards disaster-resilient infrastructure.