Defence and security are key pillars of the partnership between India and Australia, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said here on Friday, as he held talks with Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton ahead of a crucial meeting of Quad foreign ministers. Jaishankar is in Australia on his first trip to the country as external affairs minister. He will co-chair with his Australian counterpart Marise Payne the 12th India-Australia foreign ministers' framework dialogue on February 12 besides attending the Quad meeting.

"Started the day with meeting Defence Minister Peter Dutton MP. We followed up on the 2+2 discussions last year," he said in a tweet.

"Defence and security are key pillars of the India-Australia partnership," he said.

Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held the inaugural 'two-plus-two' talks with their Australian counterparts Marise Payne and Peter Dutton in New Delhi last year.

The talks aimed at further ramping up their overall defence and strategic cooperation including in the Indo-Pacific amid China's increasing military assertiveness in the strategic region.

The foreign and defence ministerial talks had taken 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 defence and military cooperation between India and Australia has been on an upswing in the last few years.

In June 2020, 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.

The Australian Navy was part of the recent Malabar naval exercise that also featured navies of India, the US and Japan.

In November 2017, India, Japan, the US and Australia gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the Quad to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence, amidst China's growing military presence in the strategically vital region.

China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea. Beijing is also involved in a maritime dispute with Japan over the East China Sea.