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Sansad TV: India- Australia 2+2 Dialogue- Strengthening Strategic Ties to Deal With Exceptional Challenges

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2+2 talks:

  • The 2+2 dialogue is a format of meeting of the foreign and defence ministers of India and its allieson strategic and security issues.
  • A 2+2 ministerial dialogue enables the partners to better understand and appreciate each other’s strategic concerns and sensitivities taking into account political factors on both sides, in order to build a stronger, more integrated strategic relationship in a rapidly changing global environment.
  • India has 2+2 dialogues with four key strategic partners: the US, Australia, Japan, and Russia. Besides Russia, the other three countries are also India’s partners in the Quad.
  • The US is India’s oldest and most important 2+2 talks partner.

Economic and trade relationship:

  • As part of its efforts to develop strong economic relationship with India, the Australian Government commissioned the India Economic Strategy to 2035 to define a pathway for Australia to unlock opportunities offered by Indian Economic growth (This paper was released in 2018)
  • India-Australia also has a Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) which was established in 1989 to enable interaction at a government and business level on a broad range of trade and investment related issues.
  • The two countries are currently discussing a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) which will provide greater market access to exporters of goods and services. The two sides have exchanged their goods and services offer lists.

Strategic:

The Quad:

  • The informal strategic Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) that was initiated by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007 was largely in response to China’s growing power and influence.
  • For Australia in 2007 therefore, to begin embroiling itself in any emerging military alliance with Japan against China, in the absence of any formal reconciliation between Tokyo and Beijing over the events of the Second World War (Nanking Massacre), was incompatible with our long-term national interests.
  • However, Australia later rejoined the dialogue in 2017 on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, signalling a re-ignition in Australia’s interest in the dialogue.

Civil Nuclear Co-Operation:

  • A Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement was signed in September 2014 which came into force in November 2015 and provides the framework for substantial new trade in energy between Australia and India.
  • The deal ensures that Uranium mining companies of Australia can supply Australian uranium to India for civil use with confidence that exports would not be hindered by domestic legal action challenging the consistency of the safeguards applied by the IAEA in India and Australia’s international non-proliferation obligations.
  • It also ensures that any future bilateral trade in other nuclear-related material or items for civil use will also be protected.

Possible intensive bilateral political and institutional engagements:

  • There are a host of emerging issues — from reforming the World Health Organization to 5G technology and from strengthening the international solar alliance to building resilience against climate change and disasters — that lend themselves to intensive bilateral political and institutional engagement.
  • The two leaders must order their security establishments to develop strategic coordination in the various sub-regions of the Indo-Pacific littoral.
  • The eastern Indian Ocean that lies between the shores of peninsular India and the west coast of Australia ought to be the top priority.
  • Eastern Indian Ocean, connecting the two oceans, is at the heart of the Indo-Pacific.
  • This is where Delhi and Canberra can initiate a full range of joint activities, including on maritime domain awareness, development of strategically located islands and marine scientific research.
  • The sea lines of communication between the Indian and Pacific oceans run through the Indonesian archipelago.
  • Given the shared political commitment to the Indo-Pacific idea between Delhi, Jakarta and Canberra and the growing pressures on them to secure their shared waters, India and Australia must seek trilateral maritime and naval cooperation with Indonesia.

Other possible areas of Cooperation

  • Water: Australia and India face some similar challenges in water resources management, particularly in managing over-allocation and water quality, while balancing the water needs of the community, industry and maintaining system flows. Both the nations can come together in finding a novel solution to this common problem.
  • Energy: Meeting the energy needs of 240 million people, which currently lack access to electricity, is a key priority for India. Australia is a natural partner for India in the energy sector as it is a world leader in energy and the sector contributes around 10% to Australia’s GDP.
  • Science and Technology: India and Australia have a strong track record of collaborating in research and innovation. The $84 million Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) is Australia’s largest.

Way Forward:

  • Thus, as the threat from China grows, India and Australia should find more innovative ways to work together to shape a stable Asian strategic order
  • Shared values, shared interests, shared geography and shared objectives are the bedrock of deepening India-Australia ties and the cooperation and coordination between the two countries have picked up momentum in recent years.
  • The opportunity as well as challenge is that the two nations are at very different levels of development. There can be converging and diverging interests.
  • It is only by building a series of overlapping bilateral and minilateral platforms for regional security cooperation that Delhi and Canberra can limit the dangers of the growing geopolitical imbalance in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Hence, the need of dedicated attention and political leadership from both capitals to become more than a work in progress going forward