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Afghanistan takes centrestage at India-Australia 2+2 talks

India & Australia held their inaugural 2+2 dialogue Saturday, with plans to enhance their ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ by expanding the scope of joint military exercises.

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New Delhi: The new Taliban regime in Kabul, the lack of inclusiveness in the dispensation, and human rights issues took centrestage at the inaugural India-Australia 2+2 dialogue that was held here Saturday, even as both sides exhorted that Afghanistan should not once again become a safe haven for terrorism. 

During the talks that was held between External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with their Australian counterparts Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Peter Dutton, it was also decided that India will participate in the next round of Talisman Sabre exercise, Australia’s largest war games.

“During the 2+2 Dialogue, we also exchanged views on developments in our neighbouring regions. Afghanistan was, understandably, a major subject of discussion. We agreed that the international community must unite in its approach, guided by UNSC Resolution 2593,” Jaishankar said at a media conference after the talks Saturday. 

Resolution 2593 (2021) was adopted last month under India’s presidency of the United National Security Council (UNSC). The resolution states that the territory of Afghanistan should not be used for terrorist activities or as a safe haven particularly for groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

Jaishankar added that during the meeting both nations had a detailed exchange of views on Afghanistan and the new Taliban administration there. 

“Our approach (India and Australia) is very similar. In a way it is summed up the UNSC Resolution 2593, which emphasises most of all that Afghanistan must not allow its soil to be used in any manner by anybody for terrorism,” he said.

Jaishankar also commemorated the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. “It is a reminder — if one is still needed — of the importance of combating terrorism without compromise. Close as we are to its epicenter, let us appreciate the value of international cooperation,” he said. 

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said both countries also discussed maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, and cooperation in multilateral formats.

“We have discussed various institutional frameworks for wide ranging collaboration including defence cooperation,” Singh said. “We exchanged views on Afghanistan, maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, and cooperation in multilateral formats.” 

According to Payne, Afghanistan was discussed in the wake of the fall of Kabul on 15 August when the Taliban took over the Afghan capital.

“Last month did see the fall of Kabul. And along with the ongoing fight of terrorism, future of Afghanistan remains a central concern to both of our countries,” Payne said. “Both of our countries have been victims of appalling terrorist attacks and this day – 11 September – will be forever remembered of those terrible events 20 years ago when terrorism struck at the heart of our friend, the United States, and by extension also a modern, plural and democratic world.” 

Payne said both countries also discussed the “challenges” faced by them in the East China and South China Seas, where China is widening its military presence.  

Also read: Taliban cabinet looks like a most-wanted list. Bush to Biden, not much has changed

India to be part of Talisman Sabre 

According to Dutton, India and Australia defence partnership is at a “historic high”. 

“India is a rising Indo-Pacific power and an increasingly significant security partner of Australia, particularly in the maritime domain. We both depend on free and open sea lanes,” he said. 

“Australia will invite India to participate in exercise Talisman Sabre and to continue supporting the Indo-Pacific endeavour,” he added. 

India will participate in Talisman Sabre — Australia’s largest war games — by 2023. India, along with Germany and France, has been taking part in this exercise as an observer. 

India and Australia also carry out other bilateral and multilateral military joint exercises such as AUSINDEX and Malabar among others. Both sides had also signed the Mutual Logistics Support arrangement and Joint Declaration on a Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in June 2020. 

India and Australia will also hold a maritime participation exercise after the Malabar Naval Exercise Phase 2, which is slated for 11 to 14 October, and that will be held in the Bay of Bengal. 

Interim trade deal, students 

Both sides also stated that New Delhi and Canberra are now actively working towards concluding an interim trade pact that will precede the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), which will take several years to be concluded. 

Ministers Jaishankar and Payne both also noted that both countries are also working towards a resolution in allowing Indian students to attend classes in Australian Universities in person, which came to a halt due to the pandemic.  

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: BRICS leaders urge Afghanistan to refrain from violence, settle crisis by peaceful means


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