India-Australia 2+2 dialogue today, Afghanistan crisis likely to top agenda
India is all set to host on Saturday the first-ever 2+2 ministerial dialogue in New Delhi with Australia. The country's defence minister Peter Dutton and foreign minister Marise Payne have already arrived in the national capital, where they will meet this morning with their respective Indian counterparts – defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar. The Australian ministers will also call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his 7, Lok Kalyan Marg residence in the afternoon.
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The ministers will discuss matters related to economic security, cyber, climate, critical technology, and supply chains. The Afghanistan crisis is, however, likely to top the agenda of the India-Australia 2+2 dialogue, along with other important security issues such as China’s role in the region and the situation in the East and South China Seas.
According to a tentative schedule available with the media, Australian foreign minister Marise Payne will meet minister of external affairs Dr S Jaishankar at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi at 10:30am. Before that, she is scheduled to lay a wreath at the National War Memorial. While delivering an address at an event organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) on Friday, Payne said that India and Australia are working towards an “early harvest” trade deal that will prepare the grounds for a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement.
“These inaugural 2+2 discussions are a cornerstone of the Australia-India comprehensive strategic partnership, which is founded on a shared commitment to a secure, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” she added.
Australia's foreign minister and defence minister are expected to meet Prime Minister Modi at his New Delhi residence at around 4:30pm.
The 2+2 dialogue is the outcome of a decision made at the India-Australia leaders’ virtual summit in June 2020 to elevate bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership.
Both India and Australia admit that diplomatic ties between the two countries are at an all-time high right now. An official from the Indian side familiar with the developments told a news agency that the 2+2 dialogue with Australia reflects the “transformation in relations over the past few years.” Australian envoy Barry O’Farrell also said earlier this week that Australia is looking forward to the meeting to help deepen the relationship between two “dependable and trusted partners” that are already working closely on strategic issues both bilaterally and in forums such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad.