By Naveen Kapoor
New Delhi [India], September 10 (ANI): India is set to host the first-ever 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue with Australia on September 11. Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Peter Dutton from the Australian side will meet with External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
India have 2+2 Ministerial format meetings with very few countries, including the USA and Japan. A similar decision was taken for Russia but no dates have been announced yet.
Speaking on India Australia 2+2, a source told ANI, "Decision to commence 2+2 with Australia is a reflection of the transformation in our relations over the last few years. Last June, during the virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, our bilateral relations were elevated to a 'Comprehensive Strategic Partnership'."
Australia is a key partner in the Quad initiative as well as in the Indo-Pacific. It is also a partner in trilateral constructs like India-Australia-Indonesia and India-Australia-France. Also in ASEAN-led forums.
"There is strategic convergence with Australia - we have a Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (2014), a Technical Agreement on White Shipping Information Exchange (2015), an arrangement concerning mutual logistics support (2020), military exercises like AUSINDEX and multilateral ones such as Malabar," another source added.
Australia is a member of a small like-minded group of NSG members, which have been consistently supporting India's admission to the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Australia continues to work in Vienna with the "small group" of countries in support of India's application.
In the context of Covid, Trade Ministers of India, Australia and Japan have launched the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) to diversify and secure supply chains.
There is an active mechanism of regular consultations on various pillars, including the annual meetings of PMs, Foreign Ministers' Dialogue, Trade Ministerial Commission, Education Ministerial Council, Energy Dialogue at Ministerial level, Defence Policy Talks, Defence Services Staff Talks, and Working Groups in different sectors.
The cooperation covers sectors like maritime cooperation, defence science exchanges, mutual logistics support, cooperation in cyber-enabled critical technology, critical and strategic materials, water resources management, vocational education and training, as well as public administration and governance.
Bilateral trade is around USD20 billion annually. Sources said negotiations on a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement have made good progress, with an Early Harvest Agreement as an interim goal.
Australia is a resource powerhouse and has large deposits of several types of critical minerals, which India requires. Australia is a major educational destination for Indian students, who currently number over 100,000. (ANI)