New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar on Saturday held the first-ever 2+2 ministerial dialogue with their Australian counterparts Peter Dutton and Marise Payne to boost strategic ties between New Delhi and Canberra.

Following the meet, Jaishankar said that the talks were "productive" as ministers of India and Australia reviewed the opportunity to "take forward the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership".

"We are meeting at a time when along with a pandemic we have a geopolitical environment which is in rapid flux and we must bilaterally respond adequately to safeguard our national interests," Jaishankar was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

Meanwhile, Rajnath said that India and Australia are exploring new areas in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and unmanned vehicles as he thanked the Australian delegation for their visit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are happy to witness significant progress in the bilateral relations between India-Australia. The interoperability between our defence engagements has seen a significant increase. In bilateral and multilateral engagements, due to joint exercises, the synergies and complexities in our armed forces have increased," ANI quoting Rajnath as saying.

Afghanistan crisis, China's role in Indo-Pacific discussed

The Defence and Foriegn Ministers of India and Australia on Saturday discussed various issues, including the Afghanistan crisis and China's growing muscle-flexing in the Indo-Pacific, reported news agency PTI quoting sources.

In their talks, the two defence ministers discussed the fragile security situation in Afghanistan and their "common concerns" relating possible spread of terrorism from the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, reported PTI.

The foreign and defence ministerial talks took place amid renewed efforts by the Quad member countries to expand cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. Besides India and Australia, the Quad comprises the US and Japan.

The dialogue between the foreign and defence ministers was instituted as part of an overall goal to expand strategic cooperation between the two countries. India has such a framework for talks with a very few countries including the US and Japan. The defence and military cooperation between India and Australia is on an upswing in the last few years.

In June last year, India and Australia elevated their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership and signed a landmark deal for reciprocal access to military bases for logistics support during an online summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.

(With agency inputs)

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma