India, Japan, Australia assert Asean's centrality in Indo-Pacific

India, Australia and Japan on Wednesday underscored their support for the Asean bloc's centrality in the political and security architecture of the Indo-Pacific region, amid China's growing assertiveness in the South China Sea and rising influence in the strategic Indo-Pacific region.

The three countries held their fourth Trilateral Dialogue here at the Foreign Secretay-level, a month after the three countries alongwith the US held their first Quadrilateral Dialogue.

Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar hosted the dialogue which was attended by Secretary of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia Frances Adamson and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan Shinsuke J. Sugiyama.

"The three sides highlighted the growing convergence of their respective countries' interests in the Indo-Pacific region and underscored their shared commitment to peace, democracy, economic growth and a rules-based order in the region," the Eternal Affairs Ministry said in a statement. 

"They underscored their support for Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) centrality in the political and security architecture of the Indo-Pacific region," the statement said.

It stated that the three sides stressed the need for greater collaboration on maritime security and domain awareness and disaster response capabilities. 

"They also renewed their resolve to fight the scourge of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stressed the need for enhanced cooperation on counter-terrorism. They deliberated on strengthening regional connectivity as well."

Wednesday's meeting comes a day after the India-Australia 2+2 Foreign Secretaries and Defence Secretaries Dialogue and a month after the India-Australia-Japan-US quadrilateral dialogue in the Philippines on the sidelines of the East Asia and Asean summits in which the security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region was discussed.

With China's increasing influence in the Indian Ocean region and aggressiveness in the South China Sea, the trilateral meeting can be seen as a reassertion of the freedom of navigation in the open seas.

Japan is also locked in a dispute with China over the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea that are claimed by both the nations.

North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes is another reason for the significance of the trilateral meeting.

According to Japanese Ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu, his country has placed India right at the centre of its strategic Indo-Pacific policy.

With the changing global scenario, Australia too is looking at India as a potential partner in promoting regional security and stability. 

The first India-Australia-Japan trilateral meeting was held in India in 2015, the next one in Japan and third in Australia in April 2017.

In Wednesday's meeting, the Japanese Vice Minister proposed to host the next round in Tokyo. 




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