Washington: The US has ruled out a trilateral military partnership with India and Japan, days after it decided to upgrade its annual trilateral meetings at the ministerial level.
"No," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal told reporters when asked if the India-Japan-US trilateral diplomatic ties expand to become a military partnership.
"The trilateral relationship between India and Japan is not to be at the exclusion of any other relationships and partnerships in the region. It has its roots on the desire to support economic connectivity across the South Asia and Southeast Asia landscape," she said.
"As you see the transition, the political transition in Myanmar, it has created a new opening and an opportunity to strengthen that connectivity that allows trade to go north, south, east, and west. So the trilateral conversations, have focused on how to do that, how to support trade and economic connectivity across the region," she added.
There are also discussions about how to strengthen humanitarian assistance and disaster response across the region. There?s a great deal of capacity in India.?There's a great deal of capacity in Japan, she noted.
Asia is one of the most disaster-prone regions of the world. Over 60 per cent of hydro meteorological disasters that require international assistance occur in the Asia-Pacific region. So another area of discussion has been on creating capabilities and synergies on disaster response, she said.
She said there is a very deep interest in strengthening maritime cooperation and maritime security, and India is playing an increasing role in providing that as we look at anti-piracy initiatives and ways to create safe transportation routes and lanes for commerce to be able to take place.
"So those have been the nature of the conversations. This is an important trilateral, but I don't think it comes at the exclusion of other strong, important relationships in the region," she explained.
The US is currently doing joint military exercises with India and with Japan, she said, adding a lot of the countries of the region, including China, have participated in the RIMPAC exercises.
"We see these areas not as being exclusive or exclusionary, but we think that the more that we're able to partner with and work with the militaries of the region, create understanding and capabilities of how we can work together, both in terms of responding to crises when they happen, but also in terms of creating shared understandings," she said.
"I know that we have mil-to-mil conversations in our relationship with China, and we certainly do with many of the other countries of the region. These are conversations that we want to have across the broad expanse of all of our relationships," she added.