India moots trilateral dialogue with United States and China

“An India that continues to grow rapidly and build its relations with both China and US may be in a position to participate effectively in, if not initiate, a trilateral dialogue between the three countries, which could be a major factor of stability in Asia,” Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said on Monday, noting that New Delhi has been able to “engage constructively” with both Beijing and Washington “despite some ups and down”.

His remark came a few weeks after American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proposed a “strong and constructive” relation between India, China and US to solve “pressing issues of the 21st century”. The foreign secretary mooted the proposal for trilateral dialogue among New Delhi, Washington and Beijing, at a time when India is set to hold a similar parlance with the US and Japan next month.

Though officials of India, US and Japan claimed the trilateral dialogue should not be seen as a move to gang up against a rising China, Beijing’s growing assertiveness in Asia Pacific as well as on the dispute over South China Sea is understood to have prompted the three nations to go for a deltoid mechanism for engagements.

Mathai said China’s rise as a major economy and global power had implications for the world’s superpower, the US. But, at the same time, the two countries were chained together by a shared economic destiny in view of their close trading and financial linkages, he added. The foreign secretary was delivering the keynote address at the fourth “MEA-IISS-IDSA Foreign Policy Dialogue”, which had “Towards Stability in Asia” as its theme. The event was organised by the Ministry of External Affairs along with New Delhi’s Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses and International Institute for Strategic Studies, which is based in London.

He noted India and China, despite mutual differences on boundary, had common interests on global issues like climate change, need for a development dimension in trade negotiations and reform of international financial institutions.

“There is need for continued engagement with China across all spectrums, despite outstanding problems on the border issue. China will be an important partner in fostering Asian stability, and in ensuring economic linkages between countries that could work to dissuade conflict,” Mathai said, adding: “There will, of course, be many balancing acts required.” The move by India, Japan and US to evolve a trilateral mechanism for engagement prompted Australia to propose a similar dialogue among Canberra, New Delhi and Washington.

Three prominent think-tanks — India’s Observer Research Foundation, America’s Heritage Foundation and Australia’s Lowy Institute for International Policy — also recently recommended that New Delhi, Washington and Canberra should begin an official trilateral dialogue on broad foreign policy, strategic and governance issues across the India-Pacific region.

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