Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 8
With India and Australia scheduled to hold 2+2 official-level dialogue here tomorrow, New Delhi is on the verge of completing a full circle of engagements with the other three members of Quad before the end of the year.
The third India-Australia official-level talks will be held by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar with Australian Foreign Secretary Frances Adamson and her Defence counterpart Greg Moriarty to discuss a range of bilateral, strategic and security issues.
The meeting also comes ahead of the visit of Australian PM Scott Morrison to India next week. The visiting dignitary is the keynote speaker at the Raisin Dialogue, being organised jointly by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation.
Among other things, talks are expected to work towards finalising the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement — a bilateral pact to facilitate military of each country reciprocal access to food, water, fuel, spare parts and other components. India currently has Logistics Exchange Memorandum Agreement with the United States and is also negotiating Acquisition and Cross Service Agreement with Japan.
One aspect of military exchanges and deep deployment remains stretching of resources that may not match the trade dimension in the region. Australia and India, at least a section of policy makers and strategic community, are of the view that both countries should have increased and deeper trade engagement. Australia is also a votary of India being included in Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, a forum of 21 Pacific Rim countries.
While India has bilateral exchanges and exercises with the Australian Defence Forces, New Delhi did not extend invitation to Canberra to join the 2018 Malabar naval exercise with Japan and the US. Australia pulled out from Malabar after taking part in 2007 Malabar.
The annual interaction also assumes significance since India took part in the first-ever ministerial-level meeting of the four Quadrilateral countries —Australia, India, Japan and the US — in New York this September with all countries subscribing to freedom of navigation and over flight in the South China Sea and centrality of ASEAN to the Indo-Pacific region.
Having upgraded its 2+2 dialogue with Japan, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh travelled to Tokyo for a meeting with their counterparts on November 30.
Ten days from now, the two ministers are scheduled to meet the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper for the second such Ministerial dialogue for which preparatory meeting was held in August.
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