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Foreign Policy: From US To Australia, India Wins Most, Loses One On Global Platform

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with China' Wang Yi & Russia's Sergey Lavrov
by Ramananda Sengupta
NEW DELHI: As India jockeys for an independent position on the global top table, several significant developments have taken place on the foreign policy front as the year comes to a close. Senior officials from the US, Japan, India and Australia met in Manila on November 15 to discuss ways to revive the Quadrilateral Grouping and ramp up regional and global cooperation. Beijing sees this as an attempt to curtail its aggressive antics in the South China Sea.
On December 1, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting for the first time as a full member in Sochi in Russia. The regional security grouping includes Central Asian states and China and Russia, and membership gives New Delhi a voice in intelligence-sharing, counter-terrorism operations and access and economic opportunities in the resource-rich region. Pakistan was admitted at China’s behest.
On her way back from Sochi, Swaraj made an unscheduled stop in Tehran to meet Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif on December 2. A day later, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated the first phase of the Chabahar port, in which India is a key investor. The port gives India land access to Afghanistan and Central Asian states up to Russia. India had sent the first of several large wheat shipments for Afghanistan through Chabahar in late October.
December 5 saw the first joint meeting of the India-Japan Act East Forum, co-chaired by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and Japanese Ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu. This meshing of India’s Act East policy and Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy is aimed at developing India’s northeastern states and linking them with East and South East Asia through a rail and road network.
On December 8, India was admitted to the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, a multilateral export control regime as its 43rd member.
Days later, Sushma hosted Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov for the 15th Russia-India-China trilateral meeting on December 11. Wang also met Sushma separately, and both agreed to “work together to ensure that our difference do not become disputes.”
Then, Jaishankar and Defence Secretary Shri Sanjay Mitra held the first ‘2+2’ Foreign Secretaries and Defence Secretaries dialogue with their Australian counterparts. Jaishankar also hosted the 4th India-Australia-Japan Trilateral Dialogue with Secretary of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia Frances Adamson and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan Shinsuke J Sugiyama in Delhi on December 13.
The only fly in the ointment in December was the victory of the Pro-China Left Alliance in Nepal in the first parliamentary elections there since 1999. As a foreign ministry official put it wryly: “You win some, you lose some. You can’t win them all.”
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