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India, Australia talks to focus on Indo-Pacific, Quad, and Maritime Security

Huma Siddiqui

In view of China's growing reach in the Indian Ocean, leaders of India and Australia later this month will discuss maritime security and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison slated to visit India later this month at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will focus on the expansion of military ties, and also deepening of economic relations with India.

The Australian Prime Minister will be accompanied by a high-level official and business delegation, indicating the importance of relations between the two countries. Morrison will be delivering the inaugural address at the Raisina Dialogue 2020 in New Delhi, which is an annual conference on geopolitics and geo-economics. The conference is hosted by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs. This year it is from January 14 to 16 in New Delhi,

At the end of bilateral level talks, the two sides are expected to ink Mutual Logistics Support Agreement which will help in interoperability and enable military platforms to receive support and supplies across bases in both nations. At the 2+2 Secretary Level Dialogue last year both sides had discussed the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement in New Delhi and deeper military ties between the two countries.

For India, Australia is a key partner in its Indo-Pacific strategy and for Australia the Indo-Pacific is of strategic importance. This will be on the agenda for talks between the two sides as well as dialogue on Quad which involves countries including India, Japan, US and Australia.

 Australia is targeting India as one of the top export destination as well as looking at India as a strategic partnership.

In a report authored by Ambassador Anil Wadhwa and Former Secretary (East), for deepening the India-Australia Economic Relations, new ten sectors have been identified including space technology,  medical and water technologies, mining, resources, education and manufacturing.

Though the two sides have been negotiating a bilateral comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CECA) since 2011, there has not been much progress due to concerns on both sides.

"Since India has pulled out from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) recently, most likely the CECA talks between India and Australia will be back on track," explained a senior officer.

Raisina Dialogue

This year's conference is going to be big as compared to previous years as there will be a huge presence of speakers from across the globe including ministers from countries including Australia, Germany, Vietnam, the Maldives, the US, Canada, Japan, the UK, Iran, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden, as well as Dr Vivek Lall, Vice President for Strategy and Business Development, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. Country's first CDS Gen Bipin Rawat, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale, external affairs S Jaishankar and Shashi Tharoor, Member Parliament are among the speakers from India. On the sidelines for the three day Dialogue where the theme this year is 'Navigating the Alpha Century', Jaishankar is expected to have discussions with his counterparts from other countries.