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Modi, Macron and Morrison likely to meet on the sidelines of G20 summit

External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar meets with the Foreign Ministers of G7 (Photo: MEA)

India, Australia and France are likely to take a step forward together in their trilateral grouping as the three leaders, India's Narendra Modi, Australia's Scott Morrison and France's Emmanuel Macron plan to meet later this year.

The trio is likely to meet on the sidelines of the G20 meet in Italy in October. The likely meeting between the leaders from three different geographies would be a pointer to the seriousness of the situation in the Indo-Pacific and constantly-changing global alignments.

The leaders are like to take forward issues besieging the world–economic recovery from the debilitating pandemic, a deteriorating climate and a secure maritime environment–all of which had been under discussion since September 2020.

Jaishankar with Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, in London in May 2021 (Photo: MEA)

The three countries had formed the grouping in September 2020 when Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary of India; François Delattre, Secretary-General of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and, Frances Adamson, Secretary, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade met to discuss developments in the Indo-Pacific, challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic and enhance cooperation.

The secretarial level meeting underlined three priorities–maritime security, environment and multilateralism for the group. The priorities showed understanding of a world that is increasingly becoming multi-polar and forming alliances to take on China.

A statement by the External Affairs Ministry on 9 September 2020 said: "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. Cooperation on Marine Global Commons and potential areas for practical cooperation at the trilateral and regional level were also discussed, including through regional organisations such as ASEAN, IORA and the Indian Ocean Commission".

This secretary-level meeting was enhanced to a ministerial dialogue on May 4, 2021 when Foreign Minister Dr S Jaishankar, France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian and Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne met in London on the sidelines of the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.

The three foreign ministers largely focused on the changes in the Indo-Pacific. Keeping the China factor in mind, they reaffirmed their support for the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight as well as a peaceful resolution of disputes.

The trio also agreed over the centrality of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) nations and supported the ASEAN's view of the Indo-Pacific. France and Australia have also joined India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) that had been initiated by India in 2019.

In less than one year since its formation, the trilateral has come a long way to ensuring that the world is not free of a democratic order. India has also joined other groups in the Indian Ocean to build their capacities and enhance maritime security in the Indo-Pacific.