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“Source: Economic Times ”
PARIS: India, France,  and Australia, in a major strategic move, plans trilaterals that would help to rebalance China in the Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of growing Indo-French & Indo-Australia & Australia-France partnership across the vast region.

The first meet of this initiative that would contribute to making the Indo-Pacific region inclusive is expected to be organized later this year in France, ET has learnt. Earlier, the three have held Track 1.5 dialogue to identify security challenges and sustainability issues in the Indo-Pacific region.

Besides Quadrilateral (India-USA-Japan-Australia), India is part of other trilaterals (India-USA-Japan); India-Japan-Australia; India-Australia-Indonesia besides Russia-India-China to stabilise and make the Indo-Pacific region inclusive.

Safeguarding freedom of navigation and keeping Indo-Pacific stable was a crucial item on the agenda when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met French President Emmanuel Macron at the annual summit here last Thursday. The two sides would jointly produce satellites for maritime surveillance in the Indian Ocean Region where both Delhi and Paris have stakes.

“Based on a shared commitment to maintaining the freedom of navigation, particularly in the Indo-Pacific zone, maritime security cooperation between France and India is a domain of excellence in their strategic partnership. In this regard, France and India welcomed the swift implementation of the conclusions of the Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region, adopted during President Macron’s state visit to India in March 2018.

“France and India intend to coordinate their action at the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and undertake, along with interested states, a joint project for reinforcing assets for combatting piracy and all kinds of maritime trafficking in the Southern Indian Ocean. France also intends to work concertedly with India at the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium. (IONS), over which it will preside from 2020 to 2022,” read the joint statement issued at the Thursday’s summit.

Tanya Spisbah, director of the Australia India Institute and a former Australian diplomat to India, told ET, “India, France and Australia are 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.”

“Examples include Australia’s $50billion 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 in 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. These countries also share strong political commitment and research strengths in food and health security. These and other activities have logically led to a 1.5 track dialogue between the three countries, to consider a coordinated strategy to sustainability and security challenges in the region. Following US President Trump’s refusal to sign the G7 Communique last year, Macron this year has elected to focus on discussion, instead of signatures, to address global inequities that contribute to constraints on economic growth, such as environment and security. Given the increasing challenges to consensus in multiple international fora, strengthening partnerships between countries with common commitments and research strengths to implement those commitments to support a secure and sustainable region is crucial,” Spisbah suggested.

Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director, CUTS International (A leading global public policy research and advocacy group) told ET, “Australia-India-France minilateral should work with an objective to make the future of the Indo-Pacific less militaristic. They should foster specific connectivity initiatives in the areas of cyber-security and tourism including underlining their social inclusion aspects.”