French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is expected to visit New Delhi in April this year to attend a trilateral meeting between India, Australia and France. According to news agency ANI, the meeting has not been officially announced by Paris so far. Senior officials of three countries held their first virtual trilateral meeting in September last year, however, this year it will be a ministerial-level meeting and a physical meeting. Three leaders - External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Jean-Yves Le Drian are expected to hold discussions in New Delhi.
The upcoming meeting may have discussions in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine distribution, given the ongoing health crisis. The ministers might also discuss potential areas for trilateral cooperation, including in the defence sector to tackle Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific, where France has already stepped-up its military presence.
On February 24, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs had announced that senior officials from India Australia and France held a trilateral meeting to discuss progress made on the outcomes of the Foreign Secretary-level talks. In September, the three sides virtually had discussed a range of issues, including maritime security, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), the blue economy, protection of marine global commons, combating illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing and cooperation in multilateral fora.
The Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement, also said that the three sides discussed the next steps to be taken for further trilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. The three sides agreed to synergise their respective strengths to ensure a free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific region with rules-based systems. The first trilateral dialogue was held a month before the second ministerial-level Quad talks in Tokyo last year. India, Australia, and France discussed areas for practical cooperation at the trilateral and regional level, including through regional organisations such as ASEAN and IORA. The three countries discussed ways to strengthen and reform multilateralism.