India, US, Japan, Australia discuss Indo-Pacific scenario

New Delhi, Nov 12 (IANS) India, the US, Japan and Australia, for the first time, together discussed the situation in the Indo-Pacific region and its future at a meeting in the Philippines’ capital Manila.

“Officials from India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and United States’ Department of State met in Manila on November 12 for consultations on issues of common interest in the Indo-Pacific region,” the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement here.

“The discussions focused on cooperation based on their converging vision and values for promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in an increasingly inter-connected region that they share with each other and with other partners.

“They agreed that a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large,” it added.

The meeting was held as Prime Minister Narendra Modi left here on Sunday for a three-day visit to the Philippines during the course of which he will attend the 15th India-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) meet and the 12th East Asia Summit on Tuesday.

The Asean, comprising Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, has emerged as a key cornerstone of New Delhi’s foreign policy, with the Look East Policy, launched by then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1992 and turned into the Act East Policy under the current NDA dispensation, is focused at increased engagements with the regional bloc.

The annual East Asia Summit is held by leaders of the Asean countries and those of Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the US.

Even as India, the US and Japan has a trilateral dialogue mechanism in place for issues relating to the Indo-Pacific region, Japanese Foreign Minister Tara Kono said last month that Tokyo was for a top-level quadrilateral dialogue that would also include Australia.

Kono said the idea was for the leaders of the four nations to promote free trade and defence cooperation across a stretch of ocean from the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and all the way to Africa.

It would be aimed at counteracting China’s aggressive maritime expansion under its Belt and Road initiative. China’s plans would cement a sphere of influence for Beijing well beyond Asia.

India responded to Kono’s comments by saying that New Delhi was open to work with like-minded countries that advance India’s interests.

According to Sunday’s ministry statement, the officials of India, the US, Japan and Australia also exchanged views on addressing common challenges of terrorism and proliferation linkages impacting the Indo-Pacific region as well as on enhancing connectivity.

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