India, Japan and Australia, close on the heels of the Quadrilateral meet, are expected to hold the fourth edition of their trilateral meet at the foreign secretary-level in New Delhi on December 12 to maintain the momentum of partnership between like-minded countries to ensure an “open and free” Indo-Pacific stance amid China’s expansionist agenda in the region.
The three countries, during the last three editions of the trilateral meet, have been focussing on developing joint initiatives and concretising joint maritime projects, including security, naval cooperation and disaster relief operations, according to persons familiar with the matter.
The trilateral is expected to review the prevailing situation in the region, including challenges from seaborne terror, dangers of nuclear proliferation, the North Korea issue and maritime territorial disputes in the Indo-Pacific region.
Interestingly, the trilateral is being held exactly a month after the Quadrilateral meet in Manila where India, the US, Japan and Australia decided to uphold the rule of law and commit to a free and open Indo-Pacific region — an exercise viewed as a hedging bet vis-à-vis Chinese ambitions.
According to Ministry of External Affairs, the four countries 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.
The officials also exchanged views on addressing common challenges of terrorism and proliferation linkages impacting the region as well as on enhancing connectivity. Experts point out that the Quadrilateral hopes to make China’s approach in the Indo-Pacific region inclusive instead of exclusive in an increasingly inter-connected region.
India, Japan and Australia held their maiden trilateral in Delhi in 2015, which was followed by a second round in Japan, and the last round was in Canberra (April 2017). This trilateral is being preceded by the Russia, India, China ministerial-level trilateral here on December 11.
India and Australia are expected to hold their maiden ‘two-plus-two’ dialogue (Foreign & Defence Secretary) to expand their strategic partnership in the Indo-Pacific region.
Japan and India are part of another trilateral, involving the US.