India, Japan & US trilateral talks to be at foreign ministers' level

India, Japan & US trilateral talks to be at foreign ministers' level

India, Japan and United States are set to elevate their trilateral dialogue to the level of the foreign ministers – a move, which signals growing convergence in strategic interests of the three nations in Asia Pacific.

It may also be seen by Beijing as a bid to contain China. Senior diplomats of India, Japan and US met in New Delhi on Saturday and discussed modalities of holding a trilateral dialogue among External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and US Secretary of State John Kerry early next year.

The move came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tokyo and Washington last September. Modi’s meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barack Obama saw all the three nations agreeing on elevating the dialogue to the foreign ministers’ level.

Sources told Deccan Herald that the diplomats of India, Japan and US on Saturday focused on prospects of greater Indo-Pacific commercial connectivity, issues of regional and maritime security and cooperation in multilateral forums. They also discussed some proposed projects to “advance shared interests” of India, Japan and US and their “other partners”.

The parley in New Delhi on Saturday marked the sixth round of the trilateral dialogue since its launch in 2011. The three strategic partners participated in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Humanitarian Assistance, Disaster Relief, and Military Medicine exercise hosted by Brunei in 2013. The personnel of the three countries participated in a trilateral disaster response and risk reduction workshop at Hawaii in the US last May. Their navies participated in the Malabar exercise in the Pacific Ocean in July.

The trilateral mechanism gained new momentum after the Modi Government redesigned India’s “Look East” approach into an “Act East” policy, as it was in sync with Obama’s “US rebalance to Asia” and Abe’s “Democratic Security Diamond” doctrines.

The move to elevate the trilateral dialogue also comes at a time when tension in Japan-China relations escalated over bilateral maritime disputes. India’s boundary dispute with China also reached flashpoints with border stand-ffs at Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir in May 2013 and September 2014 – both during visits of top Chinese leaders to New Delhi.

Abe visited New Delhi in January 2014 and attended the Republic Day ceremony as the chief guest. Modi has now invited Obama to do the same on January 26 next year.  Two senior US diplomats – Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal – led the delegation from Washington in the trilateral dialogue in New Delhi on Saturday.

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