Tribune News Service
New Delhi, June 4
India and Australia signed a joint declaration to enhance bilateral partnership on Thursday, which was accompanied by the parallel conclusion of bilateral defence arrangements.
At their first-ever virtual summit, Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Scott Morrison decided to elevate the bilateral Strategic Partnership concluded in 2009 to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP).
Conducting business amid light-hearted banter, both Premiers hoped that measures decided today would bring Australia and India close in security and trade partnerships besides breaking new ground in cyber-security partnership with a new, four-year $12.7 million Australia-India Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership.
The expanded Australia-India cooperation on maritime safety and security will be marked by building stronger links between coast guards and civil maritime agencies and by developing deeper navy-to-navy engagement. It will be under-girded by an agreement to share logistics, giving the armed forces of both countries easier access to each other's military bases. India already has one such agreement with the US and is planning to sign another with Japan. The pact will widen the arc of operations for India, specially its maritime surveillance planes - the Boeing P8I- whose close variant is also used by Australia. This would mean, that a surveillance plane, if flying in the far east, dopes not need to rely on just US bases for refuel/ spare parts.
To propel this security relationship further, the Foreign and Defence Ministers will meet in a '2+2' format to discuss strategic issues at least once every two years.
The Modi-Morrison interaction provided a glimpse of the extended relationship with Asian countries, including trilaterals with Japan and Indonesia, respectively, seven-country consultations on Covid with Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Vietnam and a quadrilateral with the US. Both countries are among the four invited by the US President to the next G-7 summit.
The security side pushed into the background a vital agreement to cooperate on rare mineral exports to India, which officials had earlier said would be instrumental in reducing the dependence on China as well as position India for 21st century technologies.
Australia did not raise upfront its expectations of India signing the RCEP agreement that would have given its dairy sector, under pressure from China, an alternate outlet.
India and Australia have common concerns regarding the strategic, security and environmental challenges in the Indo-Pacific maritime domain
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