NEW DELHI: India on Wednesday held the fourth edition of the trilateral meet with Japan and Australia here, less than 48 hours after Russia-Indian-China ministerial, showcasing strategic autonomy in its foreign policy approach and firming up a common position for free and open Indo-Pacific region premised on rules based order amid Beijing’s hegemonistic designs.
The three sides at Wednesday’s meeting highlighted the growing convergence of their respective countries’ interests in the Indo-Pacific region and underscored their shared commitment to peace, democracy, economic growth and a rule-based order in the region, informed officials indicating that three democracies are hedging their bets against Chinese expansionist designs.
The three countries underscored their support for ASEAN centrality in the political and security architecture of the Indo-Pacific region, officials pointed out, hinting at unity of ASEAN against moves made by outside powers (read China).
The three sides stressed the need for greater collaboration on maritime security and domain awareness and disaster response capabilities. They also renewed their resolve to fight the scourge of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stressed the need for enhanced cooperation on counterterrorism, and deliberated on strengthening regional connectivity as well.
The fourth India-Australia-Japan Trilateral Dialogue was hosted by Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar involving Secretary of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia Frances Adamson and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan Mr. Shinsuke J. Sugiyama. The three officials welcomed the regular meetings of this important dialogue mechanism as Japan proposed to host the next round in Tokyo.
Speaking to a select group of media after the trilateral, Adamson said, “North Korean nuclear proliferation, challenges from terror groups, maritime security as well as connectivity projects which follow transparent process and proper tendering methods were discussed at the trilateral meet.”
On Tuesday, when Jaishankar and Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra held the first ‘2+2’ Foreign Secretaries and Defence Secretaries dialogue with their Australian counterparts Adamson, and Secretary of Department of Defence Greg Moriarty the two sides also agreed that a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large.
The emerging partnership between Delhi-Tokyo-Canberra along with the USA in the Quadrilateral besides Indo-US-Japan trilateral is in the backdrop of China’s One Belt One Road (BRI) initiative that is unilateral in its approach (including infringement of sovereignty in PoK) and has implications for India’s security, Beijing’s unilateral action in South China Sea region and its disregard for UNCLOS verdict in the case with Philippines and its military agenda in the Indian Ocean Region.
India’s aim though is not to form a security alliance pitted against one power and rather seek an inclusive and responsible approach from China by hedging its bets through counter-balance. In this context, the RIC Joint Communique sought an inclusive Asia-Pacific region.
And unlike last edition of RIC in Moscow in April 2016, this RIC Joint Communique also emphasised on “freedom of navigation and overflight rights based on the principles of international law, particularly UNCLOS”. According to the Australian Foreign Secretary, “China has capacity and capabilities to contribute to peace and stability in the region.”