New Delhi: India’s Minister of Defence, Shri Rajnath Singh, and Minister of External Affairs, Dr. S. Jaishankar, welcomed Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, and Minister for Defence, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, to New Delhi for the first India-Australia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.
Both sides welcomed the elevation of the India-Australia relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) during the Leaders’ Virtual Summit held in June 2020 and noted with satisfaction the progress made in deepening bilateral cooperation in political, economic, security and defence related matters.
The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to fully implement the CSP based on mutual trust and understanding, common interests and shared values of democracy and rule of law. They reiterated the importance of advancing their shared objective of an open, free, prosperous and rules-based Indo-Pacific region, in line with India’s increasing engagement in the Indo-Pacific region through the Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative and Australia’s Indo-Pacific approach and Pacific Step-Up.
To further realize the full potential of the India-Australia CSP, the Ministers underscored the intention to expand cooperation under the 2+2 framework and to meet at least once in every two years to maintain the momentum.
Co-operation during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Ministers welcomed cooperation and coordination between India and Australia in confronting the challenges emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic in both countries and beyond. They reiterated their resolve to strengthen cooperation to promote fair, timely and equitable access to high quality, safe, effective and affordable COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and critical medical supplies globally including through COVAX. Welcoming India’s Vaccine Maitri initiative, the Ministers agreed to deepen cooperation in vaccine manufacturing, including under the Quad framework, to deliver high quality vaccine to Indo-Pacific partners. Ministers acknowledged that vaccination remains our pathway out of the pandemic.
The Ministers also noted with appreciation that Australian and Indian researchers are working together to advance COVID-19 screening and study the future health effects of the virus through projects funded by the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund. Ministers reinforced the importance of ongoing global collaboration to prevent and respond to infectious disease outbreaks to reduce the risk of future pandemics.
Shared Vision for the Indo-Pacific, Regional and Multilateral Cooperation
Keeping in view the growing maritime challenges, the Ministers agreed to continue boosting cooperation in the maritime domain, as encapsulated in the Joint Declaration on a Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, adopted in June 2020. The enhanced arrangements would facilitate deeper engagement between both countries, including maritime domain awareness, and expand linkages between maritime agencies, build on existing commitments to combat challenges such as marine litter and single-use plastic waste, and target Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. They agreed to work together to support the health and sustainability of oceans and water resources, including through regional institutions. Australia expressed support for India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative, which will promote better coordination and cooperation to ensure security and growth for all in the region. The Ministers welcomed the presence of a Liaison Officer from Australia at the Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region near New Delhi.
Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to quadrilateral cooperation between Australia, India, Japan and the United States. The Quad has a shared vision for an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, prosperous and inclusive, and based on respect for international law. The Ministers welcomed the convening of the First Quad Virtual Leaders’ Summit in March 2021 and the Third Quad Foreign Ministers’ Virtual Meeting in February 2021. They appreciated the positive agenda aimed at promoting practical cooperation in COVID-19 vaccines, maritime security, climate change, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, connectivity and infrastructure, counter-terrorism, and critical and emerging technologies. The Ministers looked forward to continuing regular consultations under the Quad framework.
Australia congratulated India for its non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the term 2021-2022 and welcomed India’s Presidency initiatives focused on maritime security, technology and peacekeeping and counter-terrorism. Australia reaffirmed its support to India’s candidacy for permanent membership of the UNSC and in reforming International Organizations to make them more accountable and transparent.
Strengthening India-Australia Bilateral Cooperation
The Ministers welcomed the progress made in further broadening and deepening bilateral India-Australia cooperation in line with the Joint Statement on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between India and Australia of June 2020.
India and Australia reiterated the importance of the defence relationship, a core pillar of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. India and Australia acknowledged the increased defence cooperation between both countries and discussed initiatives to enhance defence engagements. Both sides welcomed the success of the recently concluded Exercise Malabar Phase I. The Ministers welcomed the continued participation of Australia in Exercise Malabar. Australia invited India to participate in future Talisman Sabre exercises, to empower operational compatibility between their defence services.
Ministers committed to operational logistics support while exploring longer term reciprocal arrangements. Ministers agreed to reinforce each other’s maritime domain awareness through information sharing and practical cooperation. Ministers expressed desire to do more across the maritime domain and maximize resources to ensure free and open critical maritime corridors in the Indo-Pacific.
Ministers reviewed the strategic challenges and the regional security situation. They affirmed their commitment to keep the seas, space and airways free and open; to keep nations secure from terrorism and piracy; to ensure that global cyberspace is free from disruption, and to ensure access to and responsible use of global commons.
Both countries endeavor to increase cooperation in various defence technologies and continue the dialogue between the Defence Research & Development Organization of India and Defence Science & Technology Group of Australia.
Both countries also agreed to explore areas of cooperation in the area of defence industries including Unmanned Vehicles and other niche technologies.
Recognizing cooperation on cyber security, innovation, digital economy, cyber and critical technologies as an essential pillar of the India-Australia relationship, Ministers reiterated the importance of working together in these areas, as identified by the Framework Arrangement on Cyber and Cyber-Enabled Critical Technology Cooperation between India and Australia. They underscored the importance of a cyberspace that is open, secure, free, accessible and stable, adheres with international law, and maximizes opportunities for economic growth. They emphasized the role secure, resilient and trusted technology plays in enhancing national security, driving economic growth, and fostering international security and stability. They welcomed the fourth Australia-India Cyber Policy Dialogue, held on 6 July 2021, and the inaugural Joint Working Group on Cyber Security Cooperation, held on 10 June 2021, as well as the recent interaction between Secretaries responsible for telecommunications from both countries. The Ministers agreed to continue to work closely with each other and extend mutual cooperation in the upcoming multilateral meetings related meetings related to cyberspace and cybercrime, as well as discuss security of telecommunications networks including 5G. They looked forward to convening of the India-Australia Foreign Ministers Cyber Framework Dialogue at an early date.
The Ministers welcomed the ongoing and proposed cooperation between the Indian Space Research Organization and the Australian Space Agency and the signing of the amendment to the 2012 MoU between the two countries on Space Cooperation in Civil Space Science, Technology and Education on 17 February 2021.
The Ministers also underscored the importance of an early resolution of the issue of taxation of offshore income of Indian firms under the India-Australia Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement.
The Ministers welcomed ongoing discussions in the areas of vocational education and training and skill development.
Strengthening People-to-People Ties
The Ministers recognised the important role of people-to-people linkages in strengthening the bilateral relationship and economic ties. Both sides looked forward to the early conclusion of the Migration and Mobility Partnership Arrangement.
The Ministers welcomed the successful conclusion of the first India-Australia Circular Economy Hackathon in February 2021, and agreed to organise similar events in future to promote exchange of innovative ideas to address emerging challenges.
The Ministers welcomed that a large number of Indian students choose to study in Australia and act as a bridge between the two countries. They reiterated the importance of expanding educational ties for fostering entrepreneurship and scientific innovation. In this context, Australia welcomed India’s National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 which paves the way for boosting collaboration between academic institutions of both countries. The Ministers looked forward to further discussions to advance India-Australia partnership in the area of education.
Both sides look forward to holding the next 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in 2023.