Quad, CECA on the agenda at India-Australia 2+2 dialogue

Quad, CECA on the agenda at India-Australia 2+2 dialogue

Next Quad summit likely to be held in January; date may be announced at 2+2 dialogue; if India, Australia conclude CECA negotations, it will likely to be signed when Australian PM arrives for Quad summit

The upcoming Quad summit is expected to figure prominently in the 2+2 Ministerial dialogue between India and Australia on Monday, with both countries also likely to take stock of their ongoing negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA). This comes shortly after the India-U.S. 2+2 dialogue last week, and will be an opportunity to discuss regional developments, including the crisis in West Asia.

Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles will travel to Delhi after watching Sunday’s Cricket World Cup final in Ahmedabad, while Foreign Minister Penny Wong holds a number of meetings and attends cultural events in the national capital.

Ms. Wong and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will also hold the 14th Foreign Ministerial Framework Dialogue on Tuesday, “to take stock of cooperation under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual interest.”

Quad summit date

All eyes will be on whether there will be any announcement of the date for the next Quad Summit to be held in India in 2024. The Australian and Japanese governments have informally conveyed to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) that January 27 is an acceptable date. However, New Delhi has been waiting for a confirmation from U.S. President Joseph Biden’s office, as he had been invited to be the chief guest at the Republic Day Parade on January 26.

In addition, Australian PM Anthony Albanese’s visit will be an opportunity to sign the CECA if talks on the free trade agreement are concluded. In an interview to The Hindu last month, Australian High Commissioner Philip Green said that both sides were hoping to conclude the negotiations soon. “I’m not going to make a prediction about when, but obviously it would be my preference [to have CECA ready before Mr. Albanese’s visit],” Mr. Green said, without committing to the date.

Israel-Hamas war

During the 2+2 dialogue, the Ministers will cover “bilateral, regional and global matters of mutual interest”, the MEA said in a statement, indicating there will be further discussions on the Israel-Hamas war. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had “strongly condemned” the war in his remarks at the Voice of Global South summit on Friday.

While officials refused to comment further on the case, Dr. Jaishankar is also likely to take up an Australian court’s order telling a former High Commissioner to pay his domestic staff more than 100,000 Australian dollars. India had rejected the order, with the MEA invoking the Vienna Convention that protects diplomats from such local rulings.

Defence cooperation

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Australian counterpart will also hold a bilateral meeting after the 2+2 dialogue. India and Australia are pursuing a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and Mr. Marles’ visit is expected to give further impetus to the collaboration as well as bilateral defence cooperation, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

“Our cooperation with India is at the heart of Australia’s approach to ensuring the Indo-Pacific remains open, inclusive, and resilient,” Mr. Marles said ahead of the visit. There have been several firsts this year in bilateral defence cooperation, including the maiden visit of an Indian Navy submarine to Australia, Canberra hosting the Malabar naval exercise, and the Indian Navy’s Dornier and Air Force’s C-130 visiting the Cocos Keeling island, as reported by The Hindu earlier. 

“The Australia–India relationship has never been more consequential. We are working together through our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, as Quad partners and beyond to promote a peaceful, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” the Australian Defence Ministry said in a statement on Saturday. The 2+2 Ministerial dialogue is a cornerstone of the relationship and an opportunity to make progress together to shape the type of region both countries want, it said.

The Ministers will advance cooperation on shared regional interests, including in defence, security, renewable energy and technology, the statement added.

Regional impact

The Quad grouping, comprising of India, Australia, Japan and the U.S., has announced several initiatives for the region, including the Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) initiative for the benefit of the entire region. Sources said that the implementation of the IPMDA, which is currently being worked out, will come up for review at the highest level during the Quad summit.

“Along with our deepening defence and security cooperation, Australia is committed to partnering with India more closely for the benefit of our region, in the Indian Ocean, in Southeast Asia and in the Pacific,” Ms. Wang said, ahead of the dialogue.

From India, Mr. Marles will travel to the United Arab Emirates, the first visit to the region by an Australian Defence Minister in five years and the first visit by the Deputy Prime Minister. This sends an important signal that Australia remains committed to stability in West Asia, and supports the ongoing efforts of international partners, including the UAE, to prevent the Hamas-Israel conflict from spreading, the Australian statement said. 

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