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India and Australia’s 2+2 dialogue

Context:

  • Australia and India recently discussed the need to maintain the Asia-Pacific region as a “free” and “open” zone under the ‘2+2’ dialogue model which includes the foreign and defence secretaries of both sides.

What is the Asia-Pacific region?

  • The Asia Pacific Region is an immense region, covering some 8 billion hectares of land area, or approximately 22 percent of the global land area.
  • The Asia-Pacific Region extends from Mongolia in the north to New Zealand in the south, from Pakistan in the west to French Polynesia in the east.

Why the dialogue model is called ‘2+2’?

  • It is called a ‘2+2’ dialogue model because it involves dialogues between the Foreign and Defence Secretaries of both sides.

India and Japan’s 2 + 2 dialogue:

  • Apart from India, Japan is also India’s 2+2 dialogue partner.
  • Japan is India’s first 2+2 dialogue partner with any country.
  • India and Japan held discussions to enhance cooperation key bilateral areas, including maritime, cyber, outer space security and also deliberated on regional and international security situation.
  • Both the nations reviewed bilateral security and defence cooperation and discussed ways to expand these ties further.

What has been discussed between India and Australia under the ‘2+2 dialogue’?

New strategic partnership:

  • The discussion between India and Australia was the first meeting of this level since the two sides participated in the quadrilateral discussion for a new strategic partnership targeting the Asia-Pacific region.

Freedom of navigation:

  • The ‘2+2 dialogue’ indicated that the focus remains on freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where China has been reclaiming land for infrastructure, boosting its maritime influence.

Inclusive Indo-Pacific region:

  • Both sides agreed that a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large.

Strategic and defence relations:

  • Also, all aspects of bilateral relations with a focus on strategic and defence relations between the two countries were reviewed.

Other important discussions:

  • Developments in the Indo-Pacific with China’s rise, India’s prominent role in Australia’s first White Paper on Foreign Policy in 14 years, the road ahead for revived quadrilateral dialogue were part of discussions.

India – Australia bilateral relationship: an overview:  

  • The relationship between our two countries was based on the three “C’s” of cricket, curry and the Commonwealth.
  • Australia and India are both liberal democracies which share a commitment to the rule of law, fundamental human rights and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

Economic Relations:

  • India is fastest growing major economy today and it presents Australia a rare opportunity be a part of the growth story.
  • From Mumbai to Melbourne, from Bengaluru to Brisbane, India will be in the market to buy some of the best things Australia has to offer.
  • Trade between our countries is a little less than $20 billion but there is huge potential to even quadruple it.

Education Partnership:

  • Australia is the second-most popular study destination for Indian students — 60,000 students went to Australia to learn.
  • Australian Government launched New Colombo Plan, to send more and younger Australians to India as a place to study and boost their own qualifications and experience.
  • Skill India Mission which Indian Government is aiming to train 400 million people by 2022, Australia can help us in this regard.
  • Collaboration between our institutes on high-end research, innovation, science and technology are central to developing our knowledge partnership.
  • Australia’s minister for education and training, senator Simon Birmingham, is bringing one of the largest Australian delegations of skills providers and higher education representatives to visit India to celebrate Australia’s knowledge partnership with India.

Strategic Relations:

  • The security and stability of the Indo-Pacific is fundamental to both of the countries
  • Australia has recently adopted the terminology – “Indo-Pacific” moving away from the Asia-Pacific bringing India into the strategic frame of the region reflecting India’s greater involvement in East Asian affairs, both directly and also institutionally through the East Asian Summit.
  • Last year both the countries saw new or expanded maritime, cyber, terrorism and transnational crime dialogues.
  • First bilateral maritime exercise – AUSINDEX has been introduced which will occur biennially now.
  • Civil nuclear cooperation agreement entered into force, enabling the export of uranium to India.

Other bilateral relations so far:

  • India and Australia share warm bilateral relations based on shared democratic values and pluralism; thus there is a growing convergence of strategic perspectives between the two countries.
  • Australia has come to look at India as a potential partner in promoting regional security and stability.
  • This outlook of Australia has led the bilateral relationship to be elevated to a Strategic Partnership, including adoption of a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation in 2009.
  • In 2014, a civil nuclear cooperation agreement was signed by the two countries.
  • The two sides also agreed to extend defence cooperation to cover research, development and industry engagement.
  • Over the past few months, both countries have seen increased partnership with recent navy to navy talks as well as a maritime bilateral security dialogue.
  • The two countries are also currently discussing a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) which will provide greater market access to exporters of goods and services.

Challenges:

  • Adani Group is facing opposition to its plans to invest $16.5 billion in a coal mine in Queensland.
  • Australia’s largest coal project—which could fuel power generation for 100 million Indians and create 10,000 jobs in Queensland has ignited protests from environment groups.
  • They are concerned that the development will increase carbon pollution and endanger the health of the Great Barrier Reef marine park in northern Queensland.
  • Environmental opposition to the mine, which could begin production in 2020, has delayed the first phase of the project and prompted the company to cut underground capacity by 38%.

Conclusion:

  • These quadrilateral ‘2+2’ discussions usher in an array of socio-economic potentials for both the countries.
  • It will also enhance the strategic interests in Asia, our economies are highly complementary, and the values are closely aligned.
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