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India, US, Japan, Australia hold first quadrilateral talks on Indo-Pacific cooperation

India, Australia, Japan and the US on Sunday agreed that "a free, open, prosperous and inclusive" Indo-Pacific served long-term global interests.

India, US, Japan, Australia hold first quadrilateral talks on Indo-Pacific cooperation
Representational image

Manila: Officials from India, the US, Japan, and Australia on Sunday held extensive talks to pursue common interests in the strategically important Indo-Pacific region.

In the meeting, seen as the first major move in the 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 the 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 the promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in the area.

Following is the full statement by the MEA:

"Officials from India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and United State’s Department of State met in Manila on November 12, 2017 for consultations on issues of common interest in the Indo-Pacific region. 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. The officials also exchanged views on addressing common challenges of terrorism and proliferation linkages impacting the region as well as on enhancing connectivity. The Indian side highlighted India’s Act East Policy as the cornerstone of its engagement in the Indo-Pacific region."

The meeting took place ahead of the ASEAN and East Asia summits 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.

PM Modi is scheduled to have a bilateral meeting with Trump and Abe on Monday and the security scenario in the Indo-Pacific region may figure in the meetings, PTI reported.

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.

Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono last month had said that Tokyo favours the quadrilateral dialogue to further boost strategic partnership among the four countries.

Reacting to the Japanese move, India had said it was open to working with like-minded countries on issues that advance its interests.

The US had said it was looking at a "working-level" quadrilateral meeting in the near term with India, Japan and Australia.

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.

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". 

(With PTI inputs)