The first ever India-Australia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue is scheduled to take place in New Delhi on Saturday (Sept 11, 2021).
From the Australian side Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Peter Dutton will be having discussions with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. And the focus is going to be on Maritime Security and Indo-Pacific as well as issues related to the ongoing violence in Afghanistan.
According to sources, the decision to have the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue is an indication of the close ties between India and Australia which is also a member of QUAD and has recently participated in Ex Malabar off the coast of Guam. And recently the navies of the two countries had participated in military exercises like AUSINDEX.
Besides the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement signed in 2014, there is a Technical Agreement on White Shipping Information Exchange which was inked in 2015 and last year the two signed agreed on an arrangement related to mutual logistics support (2020),
In June last year during the virtual summit level talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the bilateral relations were elevated to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”.
Bilateral Relations between India & Australia
The two countries are already engaged in various formats of dialogues and have been cooperating in various sectors including maritime security, mutual logistics support, and cooperation in cyber-enabled critical technology, critical and strategic materials, and defence science exchanges. The two sides are also closely working in water resources management, vocational training and governance.
Australia is a member of the small Like-Minded Group of — Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) members and has supported India’s admission to the “small group’’, It has now become a key partner in the Indo-Pacific and the QUAD initiative. It is also a part of the trilateral initiatives such as India-Australia-France and India-Australia-Indonesia, as well ASEAN -led forums.
The bilateral trade between the two countries is around USD 20 billion annually and the negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) are on track and an Early Harvest Agreement as an interim goal.
There is a Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) which is important as it allows collaboration between scientists of both countries to work together on cutting edge technologies. India-Australia Science & Technology Fund; Grand Challenge Fund; India-Australia Biotechnology Fund and Fellowship Schemes are all part of this fund.
That country has large deposits of several types of critical minerals which India requires and is one of the major educational destinations for Indian students.
In the context of COVID, the two are looking at the need for resilient supply chains. According to sources the trade ministers of India, Japan and Australia have launched the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) which will help in diversifying and secure supply chains.
2+2 Ministerial Dialogue with other countries
India has 2+2 ministerial format dialogue with only two countries –the US and Japan and soon the dialogue with Russia will take place in New Delhi later this year.