Modi meets Australian, Japanese PMS in bid to further security ties
Aday after India expressed its willingness to join the US to work for the future of Asia in the backdrop of an aggressive China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday held talks with his Australian and Japanese counterparts separately amid efforts by the US, Japan, India and Australia to take forward the idea of a new security architecture in the Indo-pacific region.
Significantly, Modi also spoke to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Preeti Saran, secretary (East) in the Indian foreign ministry said, on the margins of the East Asia Summit that brings together the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and its partners, India, China, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, US and Russia.
Saran, however, declined to give any details as she said the brief meeting took place in the leaders’ lounge and no officials were present there.
Modi’s meeting with Li is his second with China’s top leadership after a 73-day-long tense stand-off between Indian and Chinese militaries on Bhutan’s Doklam plateau ended on 28 August. Modi had previously met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a meeting of the Brazil-russia-indiachina-south Africa group of developing countries hosted by Beijing in September.
Other leaders Modi met on Tuesday included Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Saran said.
However, the two meetings watched with interest were the bilateraldiscussionswithjapan and Australia—two countries that along with India and the US make up the “quadrilateral” which is seen as the new mechanism for cooperation on security issues in the Indo-pacific region stretching from the Pacific coast of the US to Australia and beyond to Africa. This comes amid a buildup of Chinese military presence in the region—eyed warily by many countries in the region.
Modi’s meetings with Abe and Turnbull followed another between him and the US President Donald Trump in Manila on Monday during which the Indian prime minister said that “cooperation between India and the US can rise beyond bilateral cooperation and both countries can work for the future of Asia and the world.” India would try to “live up to the expectations” of the US and the world, Modi added later.
Saran, briefing reporters on Tuesday’s meetings, said Modi’s discussions with Abe and Turnbull revolved around bilateral issues—like trade, investment and infrastructure. With Abe, there was discussion on security issues as well as the Asia-africa Growth Corridor, seen as a response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious infrastructure programme aimed at connecting China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Pakistan and Central Asia, and beyond to the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
“I am sure that when the meetings (with Abe and Turnbull took place) there would have been discussions on the quadrilateral but when the details were being given out the focus was on the bilateral elements because these meetings were essentially bilateral meetings,” said former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh.
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