In a significant development, the long-awaited physical trilateral between the Indian, Australian and French foreign ministers took place in London on Tuesday. This is the very first trilateral meeting of Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Australian FM Marise Payne who met on the sidelines of the Foreign Ministers meeting of the G7 in London.
The G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is the first face-to-face meeting of the group’s foreign minister in the midst of a pandemic. The meeting takes place after a period of more than two and a half years, and the last of these G7 FM meetings took place in France in 2019. The members of the G7 are – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kingdom United and United States. For this year’s G7 MF meeting, the UK, as host, invited India, Australia, South Korea, South Africa and the Secretary General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
The trilateral France, India, Australia was launched in September 2020 at the level of foreign secretaries with three common priorities: maritime security, the environment and multilateralism. There have been senior official meetings on every track since then and now it is brought to the ministerial level. The trilateral mechanism is elevated to ministerial level within a year of its creation.
The 3 countries are also expected to focus on the Indo-Pacific. France and Australia are both part of the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) announced by India in 2019. In fact, France’s membership of the IPOI was announced during the French Foreign Minister’s visit to New Delhi last month. The naval forces of the 3 countries have also trained with each other in several formats, from bilateral India-France Varuna naval exercises to Malabar naval exercises with the participation of Quad countries – India, Japan, Australia and the United States or the United States. La Pérouse – French naval forces with Quad member countries.
Earlier this year, the mechanism met at the level of senior officials. The Indian side was headed by MEA Deputy Secretary (Western Europe) Sandeep Chakravorty, while the French side was headed by Bertrand Lortholary, Director (Asia and Oceania), and the Australian side was headed by Mr. Gary Cowan, Deputy First Secretary (North and South Asia Division) and John Geering, Deputy First Secretary (Europe and Latin America Division).