Defence Minister Rajnath Singh recently engaged in bilateral talks with Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles in New Delhi. The discussions were part of the India-Australia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, aimed at enhancing defence cooperation and strengthening the strategic relationship between the two nations.
Understanding the 2+2 Dialogue:
The 2+2 dialogue is a strategic format involving the foreign and defence ministers of India and its allies. This format facilitates discussions on critical strategic and security issues, fostering a deeper understanding of each other’s concerns and sensitivities. The objective is to build a more integrated and robust strategic relationship.
India’s 2+2 Dialogues with Key Partners:
India conducts 2+2 dialogues with five key strategic partners, namely the US, Australia, Japan, Russia, and the UK. These dialogues provide a platform for in-depth discussions on political, security, and strategic matters. The Quad, comprising the US, India, Japan, and Australia, is a significant focus in these partnerships.
Background of India-Australia 2+2 Dialogue:
The India-Australia 2+2 dialogue originated from the decision made during the leaders’ virtual summit in June 2020. Both countries aimed to elevate their bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership. The agreement stipulates that Foreign and Defence Ministers engage in a ‘2+2’ format at least every two years.
Highlights of India-Australia 2+2 Talks:
The recent dialogue covered various critical areas, including anti-submarine warfare, air-to-air refuelling, security in the Indo-Pacific region, hydrography cooperation, and collaboration in sectors such as critical minerals, space, education, science, and technology. Both nations are in advanced discussions to finalize implementing arrangements on hydrography cooperation and air-to-air refuelling.
Security Concerns in the Indo-Pacific:
Given China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific, the security of the region took center stage during the talks. A robust India-Australia defence partnership is seen as crucial not only for the benefit of the two nations but also for overall Indo-Pacific security.
Future Areas of Cooperation:
The Indian Defence Minister emphasized the need for cooperation in niche training areas such as artificial intelligence, anti-submarine and anti-drone warfare, and the cyber domain. Potential collaboration in shipbuilding, ship repair, maintenance, and aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul was also discussed.
Evolution of Defence Cooperation:
Defence cooperation between India and Australia has witnessed significant transformation, marked by milestones such as the signing of a Mutual Logistics Support agreement in 2020 and the Joint Guidance for the India-Australia Navy to Navy Relationship in 2021. Several firsts in 2023, including the maiden visit of an Indian Navy submarine to Australia and Canberra hosting the Malabar naval exercise, highlight the growing collaboration.
Quad’s Role in Maritime Security:
Both India and Australia, as members of the Quad, have a shared focus on Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), subsurface domain awareness, and anti-submarine warfare. The Quad’s Indo-Pacific MDA initiative, introduced in 2022, aims to enhance maritime domain awareness in the region.
The India-Australia 2+2 Dialogue reflects the commitment of both nations to deepening their strategic partnership and addressing shared security challenges. The discussions and ongoing cooperation in various defence domains underscore the importance of collaborative efforts in maintaining peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.