New Delhi open to India-Japan-US-Oz quad idea

India on Friday said that it was open to consider proposal of a quadrilateral dialogue on Indo-Pacific with US, Japan and Australia, but the agenda must be relevant to it.

New Delhi reacted cautiously to the proposal recently mooted by both American Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and Japanese Foreign Minister, Taro Kono, for launching an India-US-Japan-Australia quadrilateral strategic dialogue.

"India is open to working with like-minded countries on issues that advance our interests and promote our viewpoint. We are not rigid in this regard," Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, told journalists on Friday. He was replying to a question on India's view to the proposal mooted by US Secretary of State and Japanese Foreign Minister recently.

Tillerson and Kono sought the four-nation mechanism to ensure "a free and open" Indo-Pacific and promote trade and defence cooperation in the region.

The move appears to be aimed at countering China's moves to spread its geo-strategic influence in Indo-Pacific and beyond, particularly through its controversial Belt-and-Road Initiative.

New Delhi on Friday pointed out that India had been involved with several trilateral initiatives due to its "broad acceptability as a country".

The US Secretary of State mooted the idea of the four-nation dialogue just ahead of his recent visit to India. While delivering a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC on October 18, Tillerson accused communist China of undermining rules-based international order and argued for greater cooperation between India and US and
other "Indo-Pacific democracies".

He cited the example of the India-US-Japan trilateral dialogue and said that Australia could also be invited to join the mechanism.

Tillerson, according to the sources, also discussed the proposal with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during his visit to New Delhi on Wednesday.

Swaraj, Tillerson and Kono, last month held the second India-US-Japan trilateral dialogue on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and his Japanese and Australian counterparts held the third India-Japan-Australia trilateral dialogue in Canberra earlier this year.

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