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India to hold maritime dialogues with China, Russia to discuss Indo-Pacific policy

India will discuss its Indo-Pacific policy with China at the upcoming second maritime dialogue. This development follows the series of efforts to improve bilateral relations after the Wuhan summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping.

“We are conducting a follow-up on Mr. Modi’s Indo-Pacific policy as he spoke at the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD). We have had the Quadrilateral in Singapore, and bilateral maritime talks with Indonesia and France. We also expect to have maritime dialogues with Russia and China to discuss the Indo-Pacific,” an official source said on Wednesday.

Over the last few years, India has deepened its engagement with the U.S. and countries in the region, which was seen as a move to balance China’s aggressive posture in the Indian Ocean. However, officials stressed that India was never critical of China’s posture and its policy was not directed against any one country.

The first maritime dialogue between India and China was held in February 2016 in New Delhi, and the next round is to be held in Beijing.

Officials said that it was not only China and Russia which had concerns on the Indo-Pacific policy but also “our partners in ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) and East African countries on the rim of the Indian Ocean.”

Delivering the keynote address at the SLD on June 01, Mr. Modi outlined India’s Indo-Pacific policy in which he described the region as “free, open and inclusive” with Southeast Asia at its centre and ASEAN central to its future and based on a common rules-based order with equal access to all countries.

In a reference to the increasing rivalry in the region between China and the U.S., Mr. Modi had said, “India does not see the Indo-Pacific Region as a strategy or as a club of limited members.”

Sources stated that this was not the first maritime dialogue with China but as it would happen after Mr. Modi’s speech on Indo-Pacific, the discussion would focus on this issue.

The dialogue with Russia is significant in the backdrop of U.S. sanctions targeting Moscow and Washington’s pressure on New Delhi to scale back its defence cooperation.