Manila: Signalling a widening of their security cooperation under the proposed quadrilateral coalition, officials from India, the US, Japan, and Australia today held extensive talks here to pursue common interests in the strategically important Indo-Pacific region where China has been aggressively expanding its military presence.
In the meeting, seen as the first major move in formation of the quadrilateral security dialogue or ‘quad’, the officials deliberated on evolving security scenario in the Indo-Pacific region besides delving into effectively combating threat of terrorism and other security challenges.
In a statement, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said the consultations were held on issues of common interest in the Indo-Pacific region with a focus on cooperation based on converging vision and values for promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in the area.
“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,” it said.
The meeting took place ahead of the ASEAN and East Asia summits here for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Donald Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have already arrived here.
It said the Indian side highlighted India’s ‘Act East’ Policy as the cornerstone of its engagement in the Indo- Pacific region.
Modi is scheduled to have a bilateral meeting with Trump and Abe tomorrow and the security scenario in the Indo-Pacific region may figure in the meetings.
The formation of a quadrilateral security dialogue comprising India, the US, Australia and Japan was first mooted around 10 years back but it did not see the light of day.
The US and Japan have been pushing for a deeper Indian role in the Indo-Pacific region.
The issue of China’s aggressive build up in the South China Sea is understood to have figured in today’s meeting which was attended by officials from the MEA, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the US State Department.
Joint Secretary (South division) in the MEA, Vinay Kumar and Joint Secretary (East Asia), Pranay Verma attended the meeting.
The move to set up the quadrilateral comes in the backdrop of growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea. The US has been favouring a larger role for India in the strategically key Indo-Pacific region.
The use of the term “Indo-Pacific” by Trump has led to speculation that it may have something to do with Washington preparing the ground for a revival of the Quadrilateral alliance between the US, Japan, Australia and India to counter China’s rise.
China has already reacted cautiously to the proposal by the Trump administration for a working-level quadrilateral meeting, saying it hopes it would not target or damage a “third party’s interest”.