First trilateral meet between India, France and Australia to counter Chinese growing presence

India, France and Australia on Wednesday held their first ever trilateral dialogue to work towards stability in the Indo-Pacific region amid China’s increasing aggressive policies that have rattled several countries.

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India, France and Australia on Wednesday held their first ever trilateral dialogue to work towards stability in the Indo-Pacific region amid China’s increasing aggressive policies that have rattled several countries. The trio has decided to collate respective strengths to ensure a peaceful, secure, prosperous and rules-based Indo-Pacific Region amid Beijing’s efforts to shape the order unilaterally, ET has reliably learnt. While the Indian Indo-Pacific construct extends from Eastern Africa to the Pacific, France, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has territories in the Indian Ocean Region as well as the Pacific Region. Australia’s Indo-Pacific construct from the eastern coast of India stretches to the Pacific Ocean with Canberra placing India as a key partner in the region.

The meeting was co-chaired by India’s foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, secretary-general of French ministry for Europe and foreign affairs François Delattreand Australian department of foreign affairs and trade secretary Frances Adamson. The focus of the dialogue was on enhancing cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Region. During the dialogue, the three sides discussed economic and geostrategicchallenges and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and domestic responses to it, according to a statement issued by the ministry of external affairs. Cooperation on Marine Global Commons and potential areas for practical cooperation at the trilateral and regional level were also discussed, including through regional organisations such as Asean, IORA and the Indian Ocean Commission, the statement said.

The three countries also had an exchange on the priorities, challenges and trends in regional and global multilateral institutions, including the best ways to strengthen and reform multilateralism, officials said. The outcome-oriented meeting was held with the objective of building on the strong bilateral relations that the three countries share with each other and synergising their respective strengths to ensure a peaceful, secure, prosperous and rules-based Indo-Pacific Region, according to the statement.

The three sides agreed to hold the dialogue on an annual basis. India has trilateral dialogues involving Australia-Indonesia; Japan-Australia; US-Japan besides Russia-India-China format. France and Australia are India’s key partners in the Indo-Pacific region. The meeting provided a unique opportunity to build upon he progress that the three countries have achieved bilaterally in recent years, ET has learnt.

The Foreign Secretary shared Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for the Indo-Pacific, articulated at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in 2018 as a means of promoting the concept of Security and Growth for All in the Region or SAGAR. The three sides discussed the emerging challenges in the context of COVID-19, including the financial impact of the pandemic on the Indian Ocean region countries. The increased salience of resilient and reliable supply chains was also discussed in this context, ET has further learnt. The three sides also talked about the possibility of enhancing maritime security cooperation between the three countries, including in the areas of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime domain awareness, mutual logistics support, capacity building of friendly countries in the Indo-Pacific region, ET further learnt.

Cooperation on marine global commons – blue economy, marine biodiversity and environmental challenges such as marine pollution – was on the agenda of the meeting. The Indian side underlined its interest in collaborating on sustainable fisheries in the Indian Ocean, technologies for harvesting of Deep Ocean Resources, Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, etc.

The discussions also focussed on the domestic situation and response, including economic measures, of each country to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, the Foreign Secretary mentioned the scaling up of our capacities in the health sector, and the Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative launched by the Prime Minister. The three sides also discussed cooperation on therapeutic and vaccine development, it has been learnt.

Development cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region; initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure; and the need for a reformed multilateralism; also formed part of the dialogue.

India, France and Australia are the three countries with increasingly aligning strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific, accompanied by complementary research strengths and resources that can support implementation of a strategic vision. These include securing a sustainable future through addressing global challenges while ensuring regional security. In recent years, tripartite collaboration is emerging from a series of bilateral partnerships that strengthen Indo-Pacific sustainability and security.

Examples include Australia’s $50 billion purchase of French submarines, which cemented a strategic and serious partnership for security in the Indo-Pacific; France’s support of the International Solar Alliance on the margins of the Paris Agreement, creating the first ever international organisation headquartered in India and accelerating political commitment to climate change among Pacific island states and the global south; and Australia’s establishment of a Space Agency last year, which has led to partnerships with CNES, France’s space agency, of which India’s ISRO is a major global partner.
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