India, Australia, France hold 1st senior officials dialogue in backdrop of Chinese aggression
The foreign secretaries of India, Australia and France co-chaired the first senior officials’ trilateral dialogue on Wednesday, with the focus on enhancing cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and strengthening multilateralism.
“During the dialogue, the three sides discussed economic and geostrategic challenges and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and domestic responses to Covid-19,” said a statement from the external affairs ministry.
People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that Australia and Japan, both members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad along with India and the US, have been driving efforts to forge greater cooperation among countries that have a stake in the Indian Ocean and with members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean).
China’s aggressive actions, including the border standoff with India and its military build-up in the South China Sea, have spurred these efforts, the people said. India, Australia and Indonesia are also set to hold two virtual meetings of their foreign and defence ministers to bolster regional cooperation and maritime security in the Indo-Pacific in the coming weeks.
Wednesday’s virtual meeting was co-chaired by foreign secretary Harsh Shringla, François Delattre, the secretary-general of the French ministry for Europe and foreign affairs, and Frances Adamson, secretary of Australia’s department of foreign affairs and trade.
“The focus of the dialogue was on enhancing cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region,” the statement said, adding cooperation on the “marine global commons” and potential areas for practical cooperation at the trilateral and regional levels were also discussed.
This included cooperation through regional organisations such as Asean, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and Indian Ocean Commission.
The three sides also discussed priorities, challenges and trends in regional and global multilateral institutions, including the best ways to strengthen and reform multilateralism, the statement 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,” the statement said.
The three countries also agreed to hold the dialogue on an annual basis.
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