During the second edition of the India-Australia Two-Plus-Two Ministerial Dialogue in New Delhi, the primary focus was China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region. In response, India and Australia decided to strengthen their bilateral defence and strategic ties. The collaboration encompasses various aspects, including information exchange, maritime domain awareness, and specialized areas such as Artificial Intelligence, cyber operations, anti-submarine warfare, and anti-warfare measures.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles emphasized that China is the most significant security concern for India and Australia despite being their largest trading partner. He underscored China’s dual role as a crucial economic partner and a source of security anxiety for both nations.
The commitment to fortify the bilateral defence relationship and enhance military cooperation in key areas was reiterated by both countries. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh highlighted the importance of the dialogue in strengthening the already robust relationship between India and Australia. He emphasized that this partnership not only benefits both nations individually but also contributes to the overall peace, prosperity, and security of the Indo-Pacific region.
Singh acknowledged that defence has evolved as a pivotal aspect of the strategic partnership between the two countries and expressed the intent to elevate this collaboration to new heights.
During the bilateral meeting between the defence ministers, critical areas of cooperation, such as Artificial Intelligence, anti-submarine warfare, anti-drone warfare, cyber operations, air-air refuelling, and underwater technologies, were discussed. The talks also delved into the security situation in the Indo-Pacific region.
Sources revealed that India expressed deep concerns about China’s expansionist tactics along its land borders and its increasing naval presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Simultaneously, China’s strong-arm tactics in the South China Sea, East China Sea, and Taiwan Straits concerning its smaller neighbours were also discussed. The dialogue aimed to address shared apprehensions and foster collaboration in countering the evolving security challenges in the region.
In recent years, India and Australia have progressively enhanced their bilateral defence connections, overcoming previous reservations to align more closely with the upward trajectory shared by the other two Quad countries, the United States and Japan.
The significance of India-Australia in the geopolitical landscape, particularly in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), was underscored by the visiting Australian dignitary. Minister Richard Marles highlighted the deep strategic alignment between the two nations, emphasising shared values such as democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech, and cultural heritage, including a mutual love for cricket.
Marles emphasized the critical nature of the defence relationship, considering it a pivotal component of the bilateral partnership. He positioned the association with India among the most important relationships globally.
India and Australia are also actively collaborating to bolster the Quad, a security alliance that includes Japan and the United States. The Quad meeting, scheduled for early next year, is anticipated to strengthen the alliance’s strategic objectives. While the specific date remains unconfirmed, India has invited U.S. President Joe Biden to attend the Republic Day parade, hoping to host the Quad summit around the same time to facilitate Biden’s participation.