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India, Australia negotiations for military cooperation nearly over

India and Australia have almost concluded negotiations on an agreement for reciprocal access to military facilities for logistics support that is expected to be signed during Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s visit in January, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The proposed Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) figured in the third “2+2” or combined dialogue of the Indian and Australian foreign and defence secretaries in New Delhi on Monday, the people cited above said.

“It’s almost done and there are a few things that need to be worked out by the bureaucracies on both sides. We expect the agreement will be signed during the prime minister’s visit in January, when he will address the Raisina Dialogue and hold a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” said a person who declined to be identified.

The people said one of the biggest developments in the security dialogue between India and Australia was New Delhi’s assumption of a larger role in the Indo-Pacific. “There’s no downside to this. It will boost cooperation between the two sides in security, defence, counter-terrorism and trade,” said a second person who too declined to be named.

With joint exercises and defence cooperation between India and Australia on the upswing, the MLSA will remove the need for protracted negotiations for reciprocal access to logistics support every time a manoeuvre is held, the people said. Monday’s dialogue briefly discussed the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan though the Kashmir issue didn’t come up, the people said.

Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale and defence secretary Ajay Kumar led the Indian side, while the Australian delegation was led by their counterparts Frances Adamson and Greg Moriarty.

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