India & Australia to increase defence engagement; China factor in mind?

at 6:52 pm
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh (file pic)

New Delhi (NVI) Against the backdrop of their deteriorating relations with China, India and Australia today decided to further elevate engagements between their armed forces as the Defence Ministers of the two countries held a telephonic conversation today.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Australian counterpart Peter Dutton, while reviewing the bilateral defence cooperation in “the backdrop of current regional situation”, also expressed their intent to convene at the earliest the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.

The 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue is a format involving Defence and Foreign Ministers of the two countries.

“During their interaction, the Ministers reviewed the defence cooperation between the two countries in the backdrop of the current regional situation,” an official release said.

The reference to the “current regional situation” assumes significance as both are opposed to the growing aggressiveness and belligerence of China in Indo-Pacific and on the Ladakh border of India.

“Both sides reviewed the progress on various bilateral defence cooperation initiatives and expressed commitment to further elevate engagements between the Armed Forces,” it said.

The release said both the ministers acknowledged the momentum achieved in the defence cooperation between India and Australia following the upgradation of the partnership to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in June 2020.

“Both Ministers expressed satisfaction at the growing defence ties between the two countries,” it said.

The participation of Australia in ‘Exercise MALABAR’ has been an important milestone in this enhanced partnership, the release said.

During the conversation, Singh thanked Australia for its assistance to India in fight against COVID-19.

The commitment by the two countries to elevate engagements between their armed forces assumes significance considering that China’s aggressiveness has been growing in the recent times.

Both India and Australia, bilaterally as well as under the format of 4-nation Quad, have been looking at ways to counter the increasing belligerence of China.

While India is faced with military aggression by China on the Ladakh border, tensions are also escalating between Australia and China.

Australia, which suspects that Coronavirus was a disaster man-made in China, has been calling for an independent inquiry into its origin.

Like India, it recently excluded Chinese telecom giant Huawei from its 5G network programme. Reacting to this, China has banned some exports from Australia, which has since referred China to the World Trade Organization over its decision to restrict Australian barley.