Tribune News Service
New Delhi, February 24
India on Wednesday discussed the nuts and bolts of advancing trilateral cooperation with France and Australia in the Indo-Pacific which is seeing increasing Chinese military assertiveness.
The virtual interaction at the senior diplomats’ level was a follow up of a trilateral between the foreign secretaries about six months back.
“The three sides took stock of the progress made on the outcomes of the Foreign Secretary-level Trilateral Dialogue held in September 2020, including maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), blue economy and cooperation in multilateral fora,” said a MEA statement.
India sees France and Australia as having a significant presence in certain parts of the Indian Ocean and feels it can combine with the two to significantly shape the maritime environment without the direct involvement of the US.
The trilateral also discussed partnerships at the regional level such as with ASEAN, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the Indian Ocean Commission.
The unstated purpose of the trilateral is to counter China, the same purpose for which the US-led Quad has taken shape.
India is also looking at giving substance to a trilateral with Russia and Japan for forays in the Russian Far East and the Northern Sea Route in the Arctic, again with the implicit purpose of reducing China’s salience.
Ironically, the first trilateral India has been involved in has China as its member besides Russia.
A French read-out of the trilateral of secretaries was explicit about the purpose – to underscore the goal of guaranteeing peace, security and adherence to international law in the Indo-Pacific by drawing on the excellence of bilateral relations between France, India and Australia.
While the dialogue between the secretaries will be held on an annual basis, the trilateral of senior officials is expected to keep imparting momentum to the concept.
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