India and Australia—key members of the Quad—are set to detail the next steps for joint forays in the Indo-Pacific region.
The plans include a 2+2 ministerial dialogue involving the defence and foreign ministers of the two countries. The purpose of a joint conversation to plan the next steps of working together in an integrated perspective. India holds a similar dialogue with the United States, another member of the Indo-Pacific Quad which includes Japan as well.
The decision to hold a 2+2 dialogue was flagged during Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's conversation with his Australian counterpart Peter Dutton on Tuesday.
Spoke to Australian Minister for Defence, Mr Peter Dutton about the measures taken by both the countries to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
India and Australia share a warm and people to people contact underpinned by a strategic partnership.
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) June 1, 2021
In a series of tweets, Singh said: "India and Australia share a warm and people to people contact underpinned by a strategic partnership." He added that "India remains fully committed to the implementation of comprehensive strategic partnership with Australia" and said that the two nations are looking forward to convening the Ministerial 2+2 Dialogue at the earliest opportunity.
In a statement, the Defence Ministry said the ministers reviewed progress over defence cooperation in view of the regional situation and expressed satisfaction at the growing military ties between the two countries. Singh tweeted: "It is heartening to note that the Australian Armed forces have wholeheartedly supported India in its fight against COVID-19".
The ministry statement said: "Both sides reviewed the progress on various bilateral defence cooperation initiatives and expressed commitment to further elevate engagements between the armed forces. During the dialogue, both ministers expressed their intent to convene the 2+2 ministerial dialogue at the earliest".
With tensions rising in Asia due to an aggressive China, the two nations are inching closer in strategic and defence cooperation. India faced a barbaric PLA attack in the Galwan Valley on its northern border while Australia is currently dealing with "punitive" economic sanctions imposed by China on farm and mine products. Commonality of agenda and a shared vision bring India and Australia together against the community country.
Last year, India and US had held their 2+2 ministerial meeting between the defence and the foreign ministers (Photo credit: PIB)
India Australia virtual summit
In June 2020, the two Indo-Pacific nations had held a virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Scott Morrison and signed the landmark Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) agreement to forge greater cooperation between the militaries of the nations. The pact allowed their defence forces to use each other's bases for repair and supplies.
A joint statement said that both sides support a comprehensive approach in combating terrorism, including by countering violent extremism, preventing radicalisation, disrupting financial support to terrorists and facilitating prosecution of those involved in acts of terror.
The Quad factor
Both India and Australia are part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, better known as the four-member Quad, a partnership they hold with the US, Japan. To China and many others, the Quad is seen as an anti-China alliance which seeks to halt its hegemony in the waters of the Indo-Pacific.
In late 2020, the Quad countries also held the maritime Malabar Exercises in the Bay of Bengal as well as the Arabian Sea with a view to promote the freedom of navigation in international waters and lend credence to a rules-based order.