2+2 Dialogues
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2+2 Dialogues


APLN member Rajaram Panda wrote on the two 2+2 ministerial dialogues India hosted with the US and Australia. He argued that the driving force behind this convergence of strategic interests stems from anxiety over China. Read the original article here.

In November 2023, India hosted two 2+2 ministerial dialogues with two Quad partner countries, first with the USA and then with Australia. While it was the fifth Ministerial Dialogue with the US, it was the second edition with Australia. The one with the US aroused the curiosity of the global community and reaffirmed the bilateral ‘comprehensive global strategic partnership’ between the two large democracies.

The ministerial dialogue with Australia focused on enhancing collaboration in the Indo-Pacific region and the Quad. While the main focus on the dialogue with the US was on a shared vision and a shared future, with Australia, besides trade and defence issues, it also included the commitment of both sides to assist the Palestinian civilians in Gaza with all possible humanitarian needs. Before analysing further the issues that were discussed, it is tempting to suggest that this ministerial dialogue framework may become a 3+3 dialogue encompassing the trade ministers as well, as trade is intrinsically linked to both foreign policy and defence policy.

The same formula may also be considered for Japan and Russia, besides the US and Australia, with whom India has similar arrangements. As stated, the fifth India-US Ministerial Dialogue took place on 10 November in New Delhi. India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had extension discussions on a host of issues with their US counterparts Antony Blinken and Lloyd J Austin respectively.

The Ministers noted the substantial progress in transforming India-US relations across domains, based on trust and mutual understanding. Building upon the June 2023 and September 2023 visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joseph Biden, the ministers reaffirmed the importance of the India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership in ensuring international peace and security. The most significant aspect of the discussion was that they underlined their strong commitment to safeguarding a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific through mechanisms such as the Quad.

The two nations are natural and trusted partners with a shared commitment to advance democracy, human rights, and pluralism, and growing convergence of strategic interests. Both reaffirmed their resolve to promote a resilient, rulesbased international order with respect for international law, including the UN Charter, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to ensure peace and prosperity for all.

They discussed developments in the Indo-Pacific, Middle East and Ukraine among other regions, and expressed deep concern over the war in Ukraine and its tragic humanitarian consequences. They underscored the growing impacts of this war on the global economic system and food security, with consequences predominantly affecting the global South. The issue of postconflict reconstruction in Ukraine also figured in the discussions. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to further deepen the multifaceted defence partnership through wideranging dialogues and military exercises of increasing complexity and sophistication, accelerated joint projects initiated under the June 2023 Roadmap for India-US Defence Industrial Cooperation and expanded collaboration in emerging domains, such as space and artificial intelligence.

They expressed satisfaction with the pace of cooperation in Maritime Domain Awareness and looked forward to identifying pathways to promote stronger service-to-service ties and share technologies to address an array of maritime challenges, including in the undersea domain. The Ministers reaffirmed the Roadmap for Defence Industrial Cooperation as a catalyst for strengthening India’s capabilities, enhancing its indigenous defence production, facilitating technology-sharing, and promoting supply chain resilience.

The Ministers appreciated the commencement of negotiations for a commercial agreement between General Electric (GE) Aerospace and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to manufacture GE F-414 jet engines in India. Both sides recommitted to spurring investment in India’s growing maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) sector, which encompasses aircraft maintenance and midvoyage repair of US naval vessels.

They welcomed commitments from US industry to further increase India’s MRO capabilities, including for the repair of aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. The issues of export control and technology transfers were also discussed. The Ministers welcomed India’s full membership of the multinational Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), headquartered in Bahrain. The Ministers also welcomed further discussions to maximize the shared benefits of the Logistics and Exchange Memorandum Agreement (LEMOA) and identify reciprocal steps both countries can take to enhance the reach of their respective militaries.

The Ministers unequivocally condemned terrorism and violent extremism, and the use of terrorist proxies and logistical, financial or military support to terrorist organizations, which could be used to launch or plan terrorist attacks, including international attacks. They reiterated their condemnation of the 26/11 Mumbai attack and the Pathankot attack and called for bringing the perpetrators of these attacks to justice.

The Ministers also called for concerted action against all terrorists, including through designation of individuals affiliated with groups that are listed by the UN Security Council 1267 Sanctions Committee, such as Al-Qa’ida, ISIS/Daesh, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, and Jaish-eMohammed. Building Science and Technology Partnerships was another issue that was addressed.

They welcomed the rapid progress made under the India-US Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) to build science and technology and critical technology value chain collaborations in both the commercial and defence sectors and look forward to the second iteration of iCET in New Delhi in early 2024. Several other issues were also discussed. The sixth ministerial dialogue shall be hosted by the US.

The second edition of the 2+2 ministerial dialogue between India and Australia was held soon after in India on 20 November. Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh discussed with their Australian counterparts Penny Wong and Richard Maries a host of issues of mutual interest and concern. With China looming large, the ministers from both sides cranked up the need for strengthening defence partnerships, besides discussing trade and Indo-Pacific strategy.

This included strengthening defence and security partnerships, boosting trade and investment and to enhance Indo-Pacific cooperation amid China’s assertiveness. China’s expansionist muscle-flexing in the Indo-Pacific was the trigger that propelled both to deepen their overall bilateral defence strategic ties. This included cooperation in information exchange, maritime domain awareness and niche areas like Artificial Intelligence, cyber, anti-submarine and anti-drone warfare.

The push factor behind this convergence of strategic interests is because of anxiety over China. Securing peace and regional stability is the main reason behind all such bilateral, trilateral and regional initiatives.

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