Modi, Trump, Abe to hold first trilateral meeting at G-20 summit

The trilateral, which would be an expansion of the bilateral between Trump and Abe, is part of the series of meetings Trump would have later this week on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Argentina.

world Updated: Nov 28, 2018 09:11 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
PM Modi,Trump,Abe
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a bilateral meeting alongside the ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines.(Reuters File Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be holding a rare and their first trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Argentina’s Buenos Aires later this week.

The trilateral was announced by US national security adviser John Bolton at a White House news briefing on Tuesday along with other world leaders that President Trump will meet separately on the sidelines of the summit. It includes a working dinner with China’s Xi Jinping to thrash out a trade deal, which has looked increasingly improbable.

There have been two ministerial level and nine official level trilateral meetings of India, the US and Japan so far. This will be the first of their top leaders — for Modi, Trump and Abe — who have met several times but always in bilateral or multilateral settings but never in a trilateral format.

Bolton announced the trilateral meeting updating a list that was announced earlier in the briefing by press secretary Sarah Sanders, who had not mentioned a Trump-Modi meeting, nor a trilateral. Her list of meetings was of Trump with the leaders of Argentina, Turkey, Russia, South Korea and Japan.

The national security adviser updated that list saying the Trump-Abe bilateral meeting will “transform at some point” into a trilateral meeting with Modi joining them.

This will be Modi’s second trilateral on the sidelines of the Buenos Aires G-20. He is also meeting Chinese president Xi and Russian president Vladimir Putin for a separate trilateral.

President Trump had earlier said during a Diwali event at the White House to the Indian ambassador to the US Navtej Sarna that he looked forward to speaking to Prime Minister Modi, but neither side had since announced a meeting or an interaction, which can also take the form of less formal and less formatted pull-asides.

There was no word on the agenda for the trilateral. But officials expect the three leaders to discuss regional connectivity, the Indo-Pacific region and related issues that have come up in trilateral discussions between the three countries at ministerial and official levels.

There have been two rounds of ministerial-level trilateral meetings so far, the most recent of them was held in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meetings in September 2017. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had met US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono.

The ministry of external affairs had said the three ministers had discussed maritime security, connectivity and proliferation issues broadly. And, they had “emphasized the need for ensuring freedom of navigation, respect for international law and peaceful resolution of disputes”, language that has come to describe Chinese aggression in the region and beyond.

On connectivity initiatives, the importance of basing them on universally recognised international norms, prudent financing and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity was underlined.

And the Indian external affairs ministry had also raised the issue of North Korea’s “proliferation linkages”, a thinly veiled reference to Pakistan that gave nuclear technology to Pyongyang. Swaraj had sought these links to be “explored and those involved be held accountable”.

At the ninth trilateral meeting of officials from the three countries, hosted by New Delhi in April, discussions had taken place on “cooperation in the areas of connectivity and infrastructure development; counter-proliferation; counter-terrorism; maritime security, maritime domain awareness and HA-DR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief)”, according to a statement issued then by the Indian external affairs ministry.

The officials had also agreed to “continue to collaborate to promote increased connectivity in the Indo-Pacific”.

“All sides agreed to remain engaged and strengthen cooperation in support for a free, open, prosperous, peaceful and inclusive Indo-Pacific region through the partnership with countries in the region,” the statement had added.

First Published: Nov 28, 2018 07:45 IST