New Delhi: Holding the first 2+2 meet with Australia on September 11, Saturday, was definitely a diplomatic milestone in the India-Australia bilateral relationship.
In a press statement at the end of the meeting attended by Marise Payne, Foreign Minister and Peter Dutton, Defence Minister of Australia besides Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar said, "Today is the 20th anniversary of 9/11. It is a reminder- if one is still needed- of the importance of combating terrorism without compromise".
He also said: "Close as we are to its epicenter, let us appreciate the value of international cooperation" – making India's missive pretty clear.
Of course the parleys between two sides came in the backdrop of an unsettling phase of geopolitical turmoil in the region.
Dr Jaishankar also tweeted to say that the deliberations were "productive".
India-Australia relations have experienced unprecedented momentum in the last seven years, he said. "The 2+2 Dialogue reflects the comfort that we have attained in our bilateral relationship, especially in strategic and security spheres, based on the growing convergence with Australia on security issues and our shared commitment for a free, open, prosperous and rules-based Indo-Pacific region," Dr Jaishankar said.
Australian foreign minister Ms Payne said, “Australia and India share a positive vision of a free, open, secure, inclusive Indo-Pacific… We have shared views on challenges of the South China Sea and East China Sea.”
Notably, other than India and Australia, the Quad comprises the US and Japan.
Sources say Australia has been always concerned about China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, including its new law forcing foreign vessels to submit to Chinese supervision in its “territorial waters”.
The two countries have also been keen to ink a trade deal but issues of high tariffs, especially on agricultural products, have proved to be a sticking point. Acknowledging that terrorism is a major threat, Australian Defence Minister Dutton said: “Australia-India defence relationship is at a historic high”.
He held a separate round of talks with Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh on Friday.
As the four Ministers came together for the first time on Saturday, both sides discussed experiences and further collaboration in responding to the COVID 19 challenges.
Decentralized globalization, strategic autonomy and a sharper sense of national security are some of the relevant outcomes.
"We also underlined our commitments to creating secure and resilient global supply chains. We welcomed the renewed vigour with which both sides are now engaging on trade issues to fully expedite the complementarities between us," Dr Jaishankar said.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, both the countries have common interest in the region.
"We have discussed various institutional frameworks for wide ranging collaboration including defence cooperation and fight against global pandemic. We exchanged views on Afghanistan, Maritime Security in the Indo-Pacific, cooperation in multilateral formats and other related topics" Rajnath Singh said.
Both the countries emphasised on their shared vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, and also the importance of combating terrorism.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said addressing a virtual meeting at Ahmedabad that, "We have to remember the lessons taught by such terror attacks and simultaneously strive to implement human values that India represents".
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in an address at the Observer Research Foundation, that there were "significant challenges" facing the Indo-Pacific.
Her comments are seen as an oblique reference to China.
"We commend India for taking a strong leadership role in the region," she said.