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India, Australia call for free & open Indo-Pacific

NEW DELHI: The first high level “2+2” dialogue between India and Australia, which began on Tuesday, proved to be a step forward for the two countries seeking closer engagement particularly in the areas of defence and security.

Foreign secretary S Jaishankar and defence secretary Sanjay Mitra led the Indian delegation in the inaugural round of talks with Australian Foreign Secretary Frances Adamson and defence secretary Greg Moriarty here on Tuesday. A statement by MEA later said “There is a growing convergence of strategic perspectives between the two countries. Both sides agreed that a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the longterm interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large.”

The bilateral discussions will segue into a trilateral tomorrow between India, Australia and Japan, with Japanese foreign secretary Shinsuke Sugiyama joining up. The focus of course is on the evolving Asian security architecture and the challenges posed by a rising China. All three countries were, only a month ago, meeting in Manila for a rejuvenated “quadrilateral” dialogue.

The timing of the dialogues, right after the Russia-India-China trilateral and a BIMSTEC gathering on Buddhism has its own significance. India is balancing all its interlocutors, giving itself “space” in its foreign policy. That was also part of the conversation Indian leaders had with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who is believed to have raised his brows at the quadrilateral grouping.

India and US will hold their own 2+2 meeting at the ministerial level in near future, while a similar arrangement with Japan is likely to be raised to a ministerial level. The MEA said discusssions reviewed “all aspects of bilateral relations with a focus on strategic and defence relations between the two countries.” While India is hesitant about letting Australia into the Malabar drills, the discussions may smoothen that particular engagement.

Source : timesofindia

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India, Australia call for free & open Indo-Pacific


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