India and Australia on Monday here reviewed the entire gamut of their bilateral defence and strategic ties during the 2+2 Ministerial level dialogue. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar represented India while their counterparts Richard Marles and Penny Wong respectively led their delegation.
The two sides also reviewed the situation in the Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China flexing its muscle there. India and Australia are part of the Quad combine including the US and Japan.
Giving details of the bilateral meeting between Rajnath and Marles besides the 2+2dialogue, defence ministry officials said, both the ministers reaffirmed their commitment towards further strengthening the bilateral defence relations.
They expressed satisfaction at the increasing military-to-military cooperation between the two countries, including joint exercises, exchanges and institutional dialogue. Rajnath congratulated Marles on the maiden and successful conduct of multilateral exercise ‘Malabar’ by Australia in August this year.
Both ministers underscored the importance to further enhance cooperation in information exchange and maritime domain awareness between the two countries. The two sides are also in an advanced stage of discussion to conclude implementing arrangements on Hydrography Cooperation and cooperation for air-to-air refueling.
Rajnath emphasised that the forces of the two countries should also look at cooperating in niche training areas like Artificial Intelligence, anti-submarine and anti-drone warfare and cyber domain.
The two ministers agreed that deepening cooperation in defence industry and research would give a fillip to the already strong relationship.
Rajnath suggested that shipbuilding, ship repair and maintenance and aircraft Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) could be the potential areas of collaboration. The two ministers also discussed cooperation for joint research in underwater technologies.
Collaboration between the defence start-ups of both the countries, including that for solving challenges jointly, was discussed by the ministers. They concurred that a strong India-Australia defence partnership will augur well not just for the mutual benefit of the two countries but also for the overall security of the Indo-Pacific.
External Affairs Minister Jaishankar and Foreign Minister Wong will hold the 14th Foreign Ministerial Framework Dialogue (FMFD) on Tuesday to take stock of cooperation under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual interest.
The inaugural “2+2’ ministerial dialogue between India and Australia had taken place in September 2021.
India has such a framework for talks with a very few countries including the US and Japan.
The latest edition of India-US foreign and defence ministerial dialogue took place in New Delhi on November 10.
The bilateral defence and strategic ties between India and Australia are on an upward trajectory in the last few years.
In June 2020, 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.
The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) allows the militaries of the two countries to use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of supplies, besides facilitating scaling up of overall defence cooperation.