INDIA-FRANCE-AUSTRALIA HOLDS FIRST JOINT TALK WITH FOCUS ON INDO-PACIFIC

Amidst the Chinese aggression on the LAC; India, France and Australia on September 9, launched a new trilateral dialogue, directing towards strategic development in Indo-Pacific region.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla attended a video conference with his French and Australian counterparts, Francois Delattre and Frances Adamson. They together discussed steps for “enhancing cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.”
This is the first ever plural initiative in Indo-Pacific that France has agreed to be a part of. India along with Australia, Japan and the United States have already been working together for strategic convergences in the region within the framework of the ‘Quad’- a coalition of the four democratic nations re-launched in November 2017 in aspiration to counter the expansionist aspirations of China.
On Wednesday, Shringla, Adamson, and Delattre discussed economic and geostrategic challenges and cooperative ideas in the Indo-Pacific, according to the press-releases issued in New Delhi, Canberra and Paris after the video conference. They also discussed about the Covid-19 outbreak and exchanged domestic experiences of their own countries and their response to the pandemic.
This step taken forward coincide the growing belligerence of China, with India along its disputed boundary on the LAC and also with other Indo-Pacific areas like – the South China Sea, East China Sea and Taiwan Strait. The trio has agreed to hold the trilateral dialogue once in every year to follow.
The main incentive behind the video conference was “of building on the strong bilateral relations that the three countries share with each other and to synchronize their respective strengths to ensure a peaceful, secure, prosperous and well maintained Indo-Pacific region based on the mutual rules”.
They even exchanges dialogues on “the priorities, challenges and trends in regional and global multilateral institutions, including the best ways to strengthen and reform the multilateral dimension in global politics”.
The diplomats of the three countries also discussed “cooperation on marine global commons and potential areas for practical cooperation at the trilateral and regional level”, including the regional organizations such as Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Indian Ocean Regional Association (IORA) and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC).
France has a substantial geopolitical interest in Western Indian Ocean and Southern Pacific, with a large number of its military personnel deployed in the region, as the French Government has territorial control over Reunion and Mayotte Islands in the Indian Ocean and New Caledonia and French Polynesia in the Pacific. It also has over 60% of its Exclusive Economic Zone in the Pacific and over 20% in the Indian Ocean.
Though the US has been trying to expand the ‘Quad’ into a ‘Quad Plus’ for some time by bringing in other democratic nations to contain China. However, France has been reluctant to join any plural initiative in the Indo-Pacific, possibly to avoid making its strategy for the region look extremely adversarial to China.
The Prime Ministers of Japan and Australia, Shinzo Abe and Scott Morrison, recently agreed to expand military cooperation among the Quad nations to counter China’s expansionist moves in the Indo-Pacific.
India also recently added a military heft to the Quad by signing an agreement on Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement (MLSA) with Australia which intends to open up the military bases of India and Australia for each other’s army, navy and air forces. India is also likely to sign a similar agreement with Japan.

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