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Australia and India to see positive and increased momentum

Sovereignty and territorial integrity in the Indo-Pacific, democratic values, the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight and the peaceful resolution of disputes is top priority.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles and Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong held the second India-Australia 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Dialogue on 20 November 2023 in New Delhi with their Indian counterparts Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh and Minister of External Affairs Dr S. Jaishankar.

Both sides welcomed the positive and increased momentum of the India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), which has brought benefits to both countries and helps to support the security and prosperity of our region.

Ministers recalled the important discussions held and cooperation progressed at the first India-Australia Annual Summit held in New Delhi on 10 March 2023 between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and their engagements in Sydney from 22-24 May 2023, and committed to continuing to work effectively through diplomacy, defence and development activities.

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Frequent high-level contacts and Ministerial visits have strengthened and deepened cooperation across a diverse range of areas including defence and security, trade and investment, education and research, agriculture and water, cyber and space, mining and critical minerals, climate change and renewable energy, people-to-people links, and mobility of people.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi; Image Source: PIB
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi; Image Source: PIB

The Indian side appreciated Australia’s strong support for India’s G20 Presidency.

The Ministers welcomed India’s hosting of the Voice of Global South Summit to hear the ideas of the developing world in health, food security, affordable access to energy, climate finance and technologies and economic growth.

Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to continue to work together on global issues and shared priorities in areas such as maritime safety and security, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals, blue economy, critical and emerging technologies, clean energy, reformed multilateralism and global governance, and inclusive development.

The Ministers discussed developments in the Indo-Pacific, Middle East and Ukraine. They expressed deep concern over the war in Ukraine and its tragic humanitarian consequences. Ministers reiterated their support for a comprehensive, just, and durable peace in Ukraine that upholds all the Purposes and Principles of the UN Charter. They underscored the growing impacts of this war on the global economic system and food security, with consequences predominantly affecting developing and least-developed countries.

Noting horrific terrorist attacks against Israel on 7 October 2023, both sides reaffirmed that they stand with Israel against terrorism and called for adherence to international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.

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The Ministers called for the immediate release of all remaining hostages.
They committed to continue coordinating with partners in the region on humanitarian assistance to meet the urgent needs of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. They expressed support for humanitarian pauses and committed to continue close diplomatic coordination, including with key partners in the region, to prevent the conflict from spreading, preserve stability in the Middle East, and work toward a political solution and durable peace.

The Ministers expressed their deep concern at the deteriorating situation in Myanmar and its impacts on regional security and stability. They called for an immediate cessation of violence, the release of all those arbitrarily detained, safe access to humanitarian assistance, and resolution of the crisis through dialogue and transition towards federal democracy. They reaffirmed their support for ASEAN-led efforts in addressing the crisis in Myanmar and called for the full implementation of ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus.

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Image: India–Australia 2+2 Ministerial meeting (Source: X)

Partnering for the benefit of the region

The Ministers agreed that the CSP was not only beneficial to the bilateral relationship but also to the wider region. They noted that with both countries sharing major Indian Ocean coastlines, and sharing a positive agenda of cooperation with countries across Asia and the Pacific Ocean region, their cooperation served to reinforce an open, inclusive, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific.

As the India-Australia CSP continues to deepen bilateral cooperation with a shared commitment to democracy and pluralism, rule of law, and a multifaceted bilateral agenda, the Ministers reaffirmed that gender equality is of fundamental importance and investment in the empowerment of all women and girls is critical to full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Ministers reaffirmed their support for sovereignty and territorial integrity in the Indo-Pacific, democratic values, the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

The Ministers agreed that the path of dialogue and diplomacy is the most suitable for the resolution of disputes and differences and the prevention of conflict.

The Ministers underlined the importance of being able to exercise rights and freedoms in all seas and oceans consistent with international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), including freedom of navigation and overflight, in addressing challenges to the maritime rules-based order, including those in the East and South China Seas. They expressed the need to have safe and professional behaviour in all domains to ensure peace and stability. They underscored the importance of disputes being resolved peacefully by international law without threat or use of force or any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo, and that countries should exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that could complicate or escalate disputes affecting peace and stability.

They expressed serious concern about the militarisation of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels and efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore exploitation activities. They reiterated the importance of adherence to international law, particularly UNCLOS. They again called for any Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to be effective, substantive and fully consistent with international law, without prejudice to the legitimate rights and interests of any state, including those not party to these negotiations, and support existing inclusive regional architecture.

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Image: The Hon. Richard Marles MP with Senator Wong (Source: X)

The Ministers recommitted themselves to empowering the Quad as a partnership for regional and global good. They welcomed the progress made at the Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima in May 2023 to further advance the Quad’s positive and constructive agenda for a free, open, inclusive, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific. The Quad Leaders’ Summit, to be hosted in India in 2024, will be another opportunity for Leaders to continue the dialogue and consolidate cooperation. India looked forward to welcoming Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the Quad Leaders’ Summit in 2024.

The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to ASEAN centrality and ASEAN-led regional architecture including the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus. They expressed their ongoing support for the practical implementation of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

They reiterated their respect for the Pacific-led regional organisations, foremost the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and committed to continue supporting Pacific Island countries in line with the objectives of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent endorsed by PIF leaders, recognising India’s role in extending development partnership to Pacific Island countries through the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) framework.

The Ministers highlighted their commitment to the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) as the premier forum spanning the Indian Ocean region. They recognised IORA’s role in addressing regional challenges and expressed support for the implementation of the IORA Outlook in the Indo-Pacific. Australia congratulated India for taking up the role of IORA Vice-Chair for the next two years before assuming the role of IORA Chair in 2025. Ministers welcomed Australia and India’s co-leading arrangements for the IORA Maritime Safety and Security Working Group and looked forward to working in partnership to build regional collaboration and coordination.

The Ministers looked forward to holding the Australia-India Maritime Dialogue between senior officials, with the next meeting to be convened in 2024. They also committed to continuing cooperation through the Australia-India-France and Australia-India-Indonesia trilateral groupings to address common challenges, share insights and have open discussions on issues including maritime security, the environment and climate change.

The Ministers reaffirmed the commitment to advance the objectives of the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), which aims to address common challenges in the region through collaborative actions under its seven pillars. Under Australia’s lead on the Maritime Ecology Pillar, both sides will continue to work together to implement practical projects to drive scientific collaboration and share best practices across the Indo-Pacific on marine ecology.

Both sides looked forward to greater collaboration to take forward the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) initiative, announced at the 2022 Quad Leaders’ Summit, as we cooperate to strengthen maritime domain awareness in the region and enhance partners’ ability to tackle the challenges of climate change, natural disasters and maritime safety.

Reflecting our shared interest in the Indian Ocean that is peaceful, stable and prosperous, Australia announced the hosting of the Indian Ocean Conference in Perth on 9-10 February 2024 in collaboration with India. The Conference is an opportunity for leaders, ministers and senior delegates to discuss positive, practical solutions for the key challenges facing our region.

Ministers welcomed closer engagement between Australia and India on Pacific priorities in line with the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent and the 2050 Strategy’s implementation plan, including climate change and economic development. They committed to coordinate closely to share assessments of developments in the Pacific region and to consider opportunities for cooperation, particularly in areas of respective expertise.

They committed to coordinating closely also on development activities in the Indian Ocean region. Ministers welcomed enhanced Indo-Pacific diplomatic presence from both countries, including India’s intention to open a resident mission in Timor-Leste, and Australia’s opening a High Commission in Maldives. The appointment of Australia’s first resident High Commissioner in Malé demonstrated Australia’s increased engagement in the Indian Ocean, including through IORA.

The Ministers underscored the need to strengthen and reform the multilateral system so it may better reflect contemporary realities. In this context, both sides remain committed to a comprehensive UN reform agenda, including through expansion in permanent and non-permanent categories of membership of the UN Security Council. Sharing the view that global governance must be more inclusive and representative, Australia reiterated its support for India’s permanent membership in a reformed UN Security Council (UNSC).

The Ministers acknowledged reciprocal support for each other’s non-permanent candidature in the UNSC – India for the term 2028-2029 and Australia for the term 2029-2030. Both sides reiterated their support for the rules-based multilateral trading system, with WTO at its core, and commitment to work constructively to ensure positive outcomes at the Thirteenth WTO Ministerial Conference, including WTO Reform among others. The Ministers also expressed support for India’s hosting of the 2024 Antarctic Treaty System Meeting.

Enhancing cooperation on defence, security and maritime domain awareness

The Ministers reiterated the importance of the defence relationship, a core pillar of the CSP. The Ministers acknowledged that through joint exercises, 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, Defence Policy Talks, 1.5 track dialogues and other consultative mechanisms, both sides have made substantial progress in building an advanced and comprehensive defence partnership. The Ministers were pleased with the substantial growth in bilateral defence and security cooperation since their last meeting.

The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to continue deepening defence and security engagement by enhancing interoperability, cooperating on situational and domain awareness, intensifying maritime cooperation across the region, and exploring opportunities to grow connections on defence industrial cooperation. They also agreed to continue working closely to combat Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Indo-Pacific region. The Ministers noted the multidimensionality of Services level cooperation with structured staff-level talks and joint exercises consistently expanding in their scope, complexity and frequency.

The Ministers welcomed the hosting of Exercise Malabar by Australia for the first time, and the maiden visit by an Indian Navy Submarine INS Vagir to Australia this year. Ministers looked forward to Australia’s participation in India’s multilateral air Exercise Tarang Shakti in 2024 and noted Australia’s invitation for India to participate in Exercise Talisman Sabre 2025. India extended support to Australia’s conduct of the Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2024. Ministers look forward to India’s participation in Exercise Pitch Black 2024.

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Image: The Hon. Richard Marles MP with Senator Wong (Source: X)

The Ministers concurred that reciprocal logistics support and cooperation have resulted in increased interoperability between the forces. They expressed pleasure at the progress of discussions on air-to-air refuelling cooperation between the forces, which will increase the operational endurance and reach of their respective militaries.

The Ministers welcomed the successful conduct of the inaugural edition of the India-Australia General Rawat Young Defence Officers’ Exchange Program this year in India and looked forward to the conduct of the next iteration in Australia in 2024. They further agreed that military-to-military cooperation should now look to expand to niche training areas.

The Ministers acknowledged the progress made in maritime information sharing and maritime domain awareness between the two countries. They noted the close working between India and Australia in the Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region and looked forward to growing engagements and mechanisms for real-time information sharing.

The Ministers agreed to continue aircraft deployments from each other’s territories to build operational familiarity and enhance maritime domain awareness, and consolidate maritime domain awareness cooperation by enhancing interoperability and information sharing to consolidate mutual access. The Australian side welcomed India’s full membership of the multinational Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), headquartered in Bahrain.

The Ministers welcomed discussions on hydrography cooperation to further synergise bilateral cooperation in regional maritime security and underwater domain awareness. The Ministers also expressed pleasure at the progress towards the inaugural joint research project in underwater technologies between the two countries.

The Ministers underscored the considerable potential for cooperation between India’s Innovation for Defence Excellence and the Australian Strategic Capability Accelerator to explore innovative solutions to joint capability priorities. The Ministers welcomed opportunities for increased defence industry engagement through participation in each other’s major defence trade exhibitions. They expressed satisfaction at the holding of the 2nd and the 3rd meetings of the Joint Working Group on Defence Industry and Research in quick succession. The Ministers also noted the growing potential of defence industries on both sides.

Ministers condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including the international movement of terrorists, and agreed to work together to take concerted action, specifically about countering radicalisation and violent extremism; proscribing terrorist entities and individuals; combating the financing of terrorism and monitoring and preventing illicit financial flows, money laundering and hawala; sharing intelligence and cooperating in investigative and judicial processes; preventing the use of the internet for terrorist and violent extremist purposes; and acting against internationally designated entities and individuals. Ministers agreed to continue to work closely together to protect the integrity of the international financial system from transnational crime and illegal financial transactions.

Ministers noted the significant role technology plays in the strategic challenges of our time. The Ministers expressed their concern about ransomware and other cyber-related crimes and recognised the need to bolster the protection of critical networks and information infrastructure.

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Supporting technology and industry collaboration

The Ministers highlighted technology and industry cooperation as an essential pillar of the bilateral relationship and emphasised the role of secure, resilient and trusted technology and supply chains in enhancing national security and driving economic growth.

Both sides welcomed the launch of the India-Australia Rapid Innovation and Start-up Expansion (RISE) Accelerator, which aims to enable start-ups with mature tech-based innovations to fast-track their cross-border social, economic and environmental impact through a cross-border innovation ecosystem. The powerful partnership between Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog and CSIRO Australia will provide valuable support to startups, micro, and small-to-medium enterprises that are working on innovative technology in climate-smart agriculture, clean energy, waste and circular economy and climate-smart mobility. India and Australia acknowledged the importance of Prime Minister Modi’s vision of “LiFE” – Lifestyle for the Environment.

India congratulated Australia for the formal commencement of its role as the new chair of the IAEA-RCA. As a founding member of RCA, India has always committed itself to actively contribute to collaborative research and development, training and capacity-building in the areas of human health, including environment and advanced manufacturing in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Ministers committed to fostering collaboration and enhancing cooperation in the realm of critical minerals. They also affirmed their support for strengthening cooperation in diversifying, the value/supply chains of critical minerals. The Ministers acknowledged and appreciated the ongoing collaborative endeavours between researchers from both sides who are working together in geoscientific research, bilateral businesses and investments. Both nations expressed their commitment to ongoing cooperation and reiterated the importance of diversifying supply chains of critical minerals.

The Ministers welcomed continued progress under the India-Australia Energy Dialogue. They noted the existing collaboration on solar energy and green hydrogen, two technologies that are critical to achieving Australia and India’s energy transition, and momentum towards a Renewable Energy Partnership. The Ministers noted the progress of the India-Australia Solar Taskforce and welcomed the appointment of Co-Chairs to the India-Australia Green Hydrogen Taskforce. The Ministers noted India’s G20 Presidency initiative to establish a ‘Global Biofuels Alliance’.

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Image: Senator Wong with policy leaders (Source: X)

Building institutional chemistry

The Ministers noted with satisfaction that deepening cooperation between Australia and India in a range of fields was being energised by the Indian community in Australia, which is now Australia’s fastest-growing large diaspora. They committed to building on government, business and community cooperation initiatives by normalising, regularising and deepening contact to build institutional chemistry.

The Ministers welcomed Australia opening a new Consulate-General in Bengaluru in July 2023, Australia’s fifth diplomatic mission in India, to represent Australia in the states of Karnataka and Telangana. The Consulate-General will deepen Australia’s trade, investment and people-to-people ties, and strengthen technology partnerships, with this dynamic part of south India.

To support the growing Indian community in Australia, Ministers welcomed the new Consulate-General of India in Brisbane, Queensland.

To enhance understanding between the two governments on regional issues, the Ministers decided to expand the Senior Officials Consultations beyond the existing talks.

To share perspectives and policy solutions on challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region, the Ministers announced a new 1.5-track India-Australia Strategic Dialogue, which would include representatives from government, academia, think tanks, the strategic community, industry representatives and policymakers.

The Ministers welcomed the establishment of the Centre for Australia-India Relations (CAIR) announced by Prime Minister Albanese during the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Sydney in May 2023. They welcomed the Maitri Fellowships administered by CAIR, which will support experts working on foreign and trade policy issues in Australian and Indian academic and research institutions or think tanks, focusing on geoeconomics trends and issues of geostrategic interest to the bilateral relationship.

The Ministers welcomed the entry into force of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of Australia on Audiovisual Co-production following the confirmation through diplomatic channels of completion of respective domestic ratification processes in India and Australia. The Ministers concurred the Agreement would further strengthen cultural ties by connecting Australia’s and India’s screen industries and create new opportunities for creative exchange between filmmakers, actors and producers.

Both sides positively assessed the momentum in economic engagement. The Ministers expressed appreciation for the entry into force of the India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) on 29 December 2022. The Ministers also welcomed the progress in negotiations on an India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) and reiterated the commitment by Prime Ministers for an early conclusion of an ambitious CECA to realise the full potential of the bilateral economic relationship. Ministers noted Australia’s ‘Update to the India Economic Strategy’, which identified significant potential for greater collaboration with India including in critical minerals, renewable energy, and net zero technologies.

Both sides welcomed the signing of the Mechanism for Mutual Recognition of Qualifications between the two countries, which strengthens ongoing cooperation in the field of education and skill development and facilitates balanced mobility, and looked forward to the expeditious implementation as per the agreed terms. The Ministers agreed to further deepen cooperation in the field of internationalisation of education and foster institutional-level linkages between the two countries under various modes like twinning, joint degrees, and dual degrees.

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Image: Senator Wong at Lady Shri Ram College (Source: X)

The Indian side welcomed the interest shown by Australian Universities in setting up offshore campuses in India. The Ministers commended the first meeting of the Australia-India Education and Skills Council (AIESC) held recently at Gandhinagar, Gujarat, to take forward the bilateral cooperation in areas of mutual interest, especially in the six prioritised areas of health and care sectors, agriculture, renewable energy, digital, mining and logistics, and strengthening educational partnerships and advancing research through internationalisation.

The Ministers underlined the progress made in the Migration and Mobility Partnership Arrangement (MMPA) and noted the first Joint Working Group Meeting on MMPA held in Canberra on 13 October 2023. They welcomed progress towards the launch of the Mobility Arrangement for Talented Early-professionals Scheme (MATES), which will support the mobility of young Indian professionals in identified sectors to Australia. They also agreed to work within the scope of the MMPA, including on the mobility of visitors, students, graduates, academic researchers, business people and other working professionals. They reiterated their shared intention to cooperate to combat irregular migration.

The third 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue will take place in 2025.

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