Australian FM Payne, Defence Minister Dutton to begin India visit from September 10



NEW DELHI: Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Peter Dutton will visit India from September 10 to 12 to take part in the inaugural two-plus-two ministerial dialogue between the two countries, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.

It said the ministerial dialogue on September 11 will cover a range of bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.

People familiar with the preparations for the dialogue said the two sides are expected to focus extensively on further ramping up the overall defence and security ties and boost strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will lead the Indian delegation at the talks.

“The inaugural 2+2 ministerial dialogue is being held pursuant to the elevation of India-Australia bilateral relations to comprehensive strategic partnership during the India-Australia leaders’ virtual summit on June 4, 2020,” the MEA said in a statement.

“The agenda for the Dialogue will cover a range of bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest,” it said.

The focus of the talks at the two-plus-two dialogue is expected to be on boosting overall cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in the face of China’s growing military assertiveness in the region, the people cited above said.

Both Australia and India are part of Quad or Quadrilateral coalition that resolved to work towards ensuring a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

The other two members of the Quad are the US and Japan.

The people familiar with the preparations said expanding bilateral cooperation in areas of maritime security is expected to be another area of focus at the two-plus-two dialogue.

The two-plus-two dialogue between the foreign and defence ministers was instituted as part of an overall goal to expand strategic cooperation between the two countries.

The defence and military cooperation between India and Australia is on an upswing in the last few years.

In June last year, India and Australia elevated their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership and signed a landmark deal for reciprocal access to military bases for logistics support during the online summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.

The Australian Navy was part of the recent Malabar naval exercise that also featured navies of India, the US and Japan.

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