In a first, the top diplomatic and defense bureaucrats of the Indian and Australian governments met this week for a so-called two-plus-two meeting.
Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Defense Secretary Sanjay Mitra hosted Australian Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Frances Adamson and Secretary of the Department of Defense Greg Moriarty in New Delhi for the meetings.
According to a statement released by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, the meeting covered “All aspects of bilateral relations with a focus on strategic and defence relations between the two countries.”
In November, representatives from both India and Australia participated in a working-level quadrilateral meeting with representatives from Japan and the United States.
This so-called “Quad” had originally met in 2007 and the latest meeting focused on the concept of a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” an idea that all four sides backed in statements released after the working-level meeting.
Unsurprisingly, the India-Australia two-plus-two meeting referenced the idea: “Both sides agreed that a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large,” the Indian Ministry of External Affairs noted in its statement.
On regional security matters, India and Australia have seen a fair bit of convergence recently. The two countries conduct bilateral naval exercises in the Indian Ocean, and Australia may potentially participate in the trilateral U.S.-India-Japan Malabar drill in the coming year.
In 2017, Australia, despite its interest, did not participate in the Malabar drills, owing to Indian hesitation. The Indian Navy nevertheless joined its Australian counterpart for the AUSINDEX drill this year.
Earlier this year, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visited New Delhi for a four-day state visit, where he met with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.
The joint statement released by the two leaders during that visit, which described them as “partners in the Indo-Pacific,” focused considerably on regional issues.
“The two Prime Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific, based on mutual respect and cooperation. Australia and India share a commitment to democratic values, rule of law, international peace and security, and shared prosperity,” the statement noted.
“The strategic and economic interests of both countries are converging which opens up opportunities for working together in a rapidly changing region.”