(This was originally posted in Hindustan Times by Amit Chaturvedi)
India and Australia began the high-level 2+2 foreign and defence ministerial dialogue in New Delhi on Saturday. External affairs minister S Jaishankar and defence minister Rajnath Singh held the closed-door talks with their Australian counterparts Marise Payne and Peter Dutton. The dialogue is aimed at further ramping up the overall defence and strategic cooperation between the two countries, including in the Indo-Pacific amid China’s increasing military assertiveness in the region.
Just before the beginning of the talks, Jaishankar welcomed Payne with a fist bump, which has become the new handshake during the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic. “EAM Dr S Jaishankar & Defence Minister Rajnath Singh welcomed their Australian counterparts FM Marise Payne & Australia Defence Minister Peter Dutton for the India-Australia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. Bilateral, regional and global issues on the agenda,” ministry of external affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Twitter.
The in-person talks are taking place at a time the global focus has been on the situation in Afghanistan and the issue is likely to figure in the deliberations. The foreign and defence ministerial talks are taking place amid renewed efforts by the Quad member countries to expand cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. Besides India and Australia, the Quad comprises the US and Japan.
In an address at an event organised by the Observer Research Organisation, Payne on Friday said the Quad has evolved “swiftly” and very “effectively” and commended India for taking a strong leadership role in the region. The Australian ministers will also call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his 7, Lok Kalyan Marg residence in the afternoon.