India, Australia hold first high-level dialogue on strategic, defence ties


NEW DELHI: The first high level “2+2” dialogue between India and Australia is yet another step for the two countries to move to a much closer engagement particularly in the areas of defence and security.
Foreign secretary S Jaishankar and defence secretary Sanjay Mitra led the Indian delegation in the inaugural round of talks with Australian foreign secretary Frances Adamson and defence secretary Greg Moriarty here today. “There is a growing convergence of strategic perspectives between the two countries. Both sides agreed that a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large,” a statement by MEA said.
The bilateral discussions will segue into a trilateral tomorrow between India, Australia and Japan, with Japanese foreign secretary Shinsuke Sugiyama joining up. The focus of course is on the evolving Asian security architecture and the challenges posed by a rising China. All three countries were, only a month ago, meeting in Manila for a rejuvenated “quadrilateral” dialogue.
The timing of the dialogues, right after the Russia-India-China trilateral and a BIMSTEC gathering on Buddhism has its own significance. India is balancing all its interlocutors, giving itself “space” in its foreign policy. That was also part of the conversation Indian leaders had with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who is believed to have raised his brows at the quadrilateral grouping.
India and US will be holding their own 2+2 meeting at the ministerial level in the coming months, while a similar arrangement with Japan is likely to to bumped up to the ministerial level. The MEA said the discusssions reviewed “All aspects of bilateral relations with a focus on strategic and defence relations between the two countries.” While India is hesitant about letting Australia into the Malabar naval exercises, these discussions are expected to smoothen that particular engagement. In fact, in recent months, India and Australia also engaged in high level bilateral naval exercises, as both countries build on their convergences as Indian Ocean powers.
Adamson met Secretary (East) Preeti Saran and Secretary (ER) Vijay Gokhale in the MEA, while Moriarty met Chief of Staff Committee and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba and visited Rajputana Rifles Regimental Centre.