India, Australia hold inaugural '2+2' talks to strengthen defence, strategic cooperation

The foreign and defence ministerial talks are taking place amid renewed efforts by the Quad member countries to expand cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

Published: 11th September 2021 12:18 PM  |   Last Updated: 11th September 2021 02:27 PM   |  A+A-

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with his Australian counterpart Peter Dutton. (Photo @rajnathsingh)


NEW DELHI: India and Australia on Saturday held the inaugural foreign and defence ministerial dialogue to boost overall strategic ties in the backdrop of an unsettling phase of geopolitical flux in the region.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajath Singh held the 'two-plus-two' talks here with their Australian counterparts Marise Payne and Peter Dutton.

Jaishankar described the in-person talks as "productive".

"A productive 2+2 meeting today with Australia," he tweeted.

Both of us are keen to work jointly to realize the full potential of the India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

The talks took place at a time the global focus is on the situation in Afghanistan after its takeover by the Taliban last month, and it is understood that the issue figured in these deliberations.

The two sides held extensive talks on all key issues of strategic interests including the situation in the Indo-Pacific in the face of China's growing muscle-flexing in the region, people familiar with the development said.

The overall focus was to ramp up the strategic ties, they said.

The outcome of the talks will be shared by the four ministers at a joint press conference later.

While Singh held wide-ranging discussions with Australian defence minister Dutton on Friday, Jaishankar met foreign minister Payne in the morning ahead of the 'two-plus-two' dialogue.

In their talks, the two defence ministers discussed the fragile security situation in Afghanistan and their "common concerns" relating possible spread of terrorism from the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

The foreign and defence ministerial talks took place amid renewed efforts by the Quad member countries to expand cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

Besides India and Australia, the Quad comprises the US and Japan.

In an address at an event organised by the Observer Research Organisation, Payne on Friday said the Quad has evolved "swiftly" and very "effectively" and commended India for taking a strong leadership role in the region.

Talking about "significant challenges" facing the Indo-Pacific, the Australian foreign minister said Canberra seeks a region where rights of large and small countries are respected and that no "single dominant power" dictates the outcome for others.

The dialogue between the foreign and defence ministers was instituted as part of an overall goal to expand strategic cooperation between the two countries.

India has such a framework for talks with a very few countries including the US and Japan.

The defence and military cooperation between India and Australia is on an upswing in the last few years.

In June last year, India and Australia elevated their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership and signed a landmark deal for reciprocal access to military bases for logistics support during an online summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.

The Australian Navy was part of the recent Malabar naval exercise that also featured navies of India, the US and Japan.


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