Washington/New Delhi: Against the backdrop of China`s increasing assertiveness in East Asia, India, the US and Japan will hold their first trilateral meeting Dec 19 in the US capital to discuss "a range of Asia Pacific regional issues" among the three leading "Pacific democracies."
"This meeting is going to be an opportunity to hold a comprehensive discussion on a range of Asia-Pacific regional issues," US State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters in Washington Monday.
The specific agenda is still being determined, "but obviously, as the three leading Pacific democracies, we look forward to productive exchanges with India and Japan," he said.
Asked why India, an Indian Ocean country, was invited to the meeting as one of the "Pacific democracies," Toner said, "This is a chance for us to discuss regional issues."
In response to a question that why Australia was not invited to the meeting, Toner explained that it "isn`t all-inclusive."
"I don`t know about Australia. All these talks don`t have to be completely inclusive. Again, this is a chance for us to meet with three leading democracies in the region."
The dialogue, earlier scheduled for October 8 in Tokyo, was postponed at Washington`s request.
Driven by Tokyo and finalised during then foreign secretary Nirupama Rao`s visit to Japan in April 2010, the dialogue is also part of New Delhi`s effort to go beyond the stated Look East policy and engage North Asia as well.
Informed sources said that India will be represented at the trilateral meeting by Asoke Mukherji, additional secretary (Political) in the external affairs ministry. He will be accompanied by other senior officials, including Jawed Ashraf, joint secretary in charge of Americas and Gautam Bambawale, joint secretary in charge of East Asia.
The US is expected to be represented by Kurt Campell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Japan`s director general of East Asia in its foreign ministry will participate in the meeting.
Issues relating to maritime security, piracy and non-proliferation are expected to figure prominently in the dialogue, sources said.
The trilateral has been in the making for a long time, but the first meeting comes at a time when China is becoming increasingly assertive in East Asia and the US is seeking to ramp up its engagement with the Asia-Pacific region that includes some of the fast-growing economies in the world.
The US is also pushing India to play a proactive role in the region by urging it "to think East and act East". Recently, Hillary Clinton visited Myanmar, the first visit by a US Secretary of State to that country in last five decades, paving the way for accelerated engagement of Washington with that country and the larger Southeast Asian region.
The three sides have made it clear that the trilateral dialogue is not directed against China, but Beijing has been uneasy with such an exercise and has tended to see such a move as a ganging up of democracies to encircle its rising influence in the region.