Press Trust of india

Rajnath holds talks with Australian counterpart

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New Delhi: Partnership between India and Australia is based on our shared vision of free, open, inclusive and rule-based Indo-Pacific region, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Friday after holding wide-ranging talks with his Australian counterpart Peter Dutton.

Describing the discussions as “fruitful”, Singh said bilateral defence cooperation as well as regional issues figured in the deliberations.

“I have had a very fruitful and wide-ranging discussion with Minister Dutton on our bilateral defence cooperation as well as regional issues,” Singh said in a media statement.

“Both of us are keen to work jointly to realise the full potential of the India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” he said.

The talks took place a day ahead of the inaugural ‘two-plus-two’ dialogue between foreign and defence ministers of India and Australia. Dutton and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne arrived here on Friday.

Singh said the partnership between the two countries is based on “our shared vision of free, open, inclusive and rule-based Indo-Pacific region”.

“Both, Australia and India have tremendous stakes in peace, development and free flow of trade, rules-based order and economic growth in the region,” he said.

“Our discussions today focused on our bilateral defence cooperation and expanding military engagements across services, enhancing defence information sharing, cooperation in emerging defence technologies and mutual logistics support,” he added.

Singh said both sides also noted with happiness that Australia joined the Malabar Exercise in 2020.

“In this context we also expressed satisfaction in the continued participation of Australia in Malabar Exercise this year,” he added.

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

Singh said both sides discussed opportunities to work together in defence science and technology areas.

“I invited Australian industry to take advantage of India’s liberalised foreign direct investment policies in the defence sector. We both agreed that there are opportunities of bilateral collaboration for co-development and co¬≠ production,” he said.

According to diplomatic sources, at the two-plus-two dialogue, both sides are expected to deliberate on further solidifying bilateral defence and strategic ties besides exchanging views on the situation in Afghanistan.

The two sides are also expected to discuss ways to boost cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in the face of China’s growing military assertiveness in the region, they 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 sources said expanding bilateral cooperation in areas of maritime security is expected to be another area of focus at the two-plus-two dialogue.

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

India has such a framework for talks with a very few countries including the US and Japan.

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 an online summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.

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