On Wednesday 9 September 2020, India, France, and Australia held their first trilateral meeting themed around cooperation in Indo-Pacific region. At a time when India is firmly acting against aggressive China, this has assumed all the more significance.
Reaffirming our close partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region, FS @harshvshringla co-chaired the inaugural India-France-Australia Trilateral Dialogue today.@francediplo_EN@dfat pic.twitter.com/pkgEDzAJFi
— Anurag Srivastava (@MEAIndia) September 9, 2020
Though the virtual meeting is said to be discussed the situation emerged from Covid-19 crisis and the ways to deal with it, analysts have mostly interpreted it as a signal to China. In any case, this first-ever trilateral meeting validates that the world acknowledges India as a prominent player in the Indo-Pacific region.
In the recent months we have also seen that countries like the US and Japan also have backed India in this region, the account of which you can read in our previous article Signalling to China on the Might of India-US in Sea – Was This Built Overnight?.
With regards to the India-France-Australia trilateral meeting, The Indian Express has reported that Back in 2018, Indian officials had articulated the concept of Security and Growth for All in the Region – or SAGAR at the Shangri-La conclave in Singapore as means for promoting maritime cooperation. The three countries have also discussed the ways of strengthening maritime security in the areas of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime domain awareness, mutual logistics support, and capacity-building of friendly countries in the Indo-Pacific region.
Strategic Paris-Delhi-Canberra axis gets off to a flying start amid China tension
— Hindustan Times (@htTweets) September 10, 2020
The emergence of the term Indo-Pacific
Australian strategic affairs scholar Rory Medcalf in his book ‘Indo-Pacific Empire’ has shed light on an interesting development as to how the term ‘Asia-Pacific’ has been replaced by ‘Indo-Pacific’ in the recent past. The term attaches significance to the Indian Ocean and indirectly to India as well.
As Rory Medcalf traces this development, back in 2013, Australia used the term Indo-Pacific term in its defence white paper. In 2016, PM Modi and Shinzo Abe met in Japan’s high-speed train, and among many other outcomes of the meeting, also agreed to use the term Indo-Pacific to refer to the maritime region they are involved in. Slowly, many South-East Asian countries have begun to use the term Indo-Pacific. In 2017, the US defence documents also started using ‘Indo-Pacific’, even as China agitated over the use of this term.
It may be argued that India’s pro-active engagement in the Oceanic affairs in the past six years has made the world take note of it.
Now, the first-ever trilateral meet of India-France-Australia also furthers this trend in which India has a leading role to play in the Indo-Pacific region.