Officials from India, Australia, the USA and Japan met here today and discussed issues relating to cooperation the Indo-Pacific region, seen as a first move to set up a quadrilateral grouping to pursue common interests amidst growing assertiveness by the Chinese military in the strategically key region.
Japan will propose a top-level dialogue with the U.S., India and Australia, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono told The Nikkei on Wednesday.
During the meeting of officials, key issues of common interest in the "Indo-Pacific region" were discussed, with an eye on China and the aim reaching a common ground on a "free and open" Indo-Pacific - an apparent reference to freedom of navigation on the South China Sea. Chaired by Japanese officials, the meeting lasted over an hour and was attended by two MEA officials - joint secretary (East Asia) Pranay Verma, who handles India's relations with China, Japan, North Korea and South Korea, and joint secretary (South) Vinay Kumar, who handles Australia and Philippines among other countries in the region.
Japan's foreign ministry said they discussed measures to ensure a "free and open global order based on the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific".
He added that it was China's "consistent foreign policy" that it would "welcome development of friendly cooperation between relevant countries, and we hope this will not be directed at a third party".
The Indo-Pacific concept has figured prominently during the recent visit by President Donald Trump to the region including to Japan and China.
The emerging quadrilateral is seen to counter China's aggressive maritime expansion under its Belt and Road initiative. "We will not be able to compete with the kind of terms that China offers, but countries have to decide: What are they willing to pay to secure their sovereignty and their future control of their economies And we've had those discussions with them, as well", he said.
It is also being interpreted as a security arrangement led by the United States to contain China.
"The officials also exchanged views on addressing common challenges of terrorism and proliferation linkages impacting the region as well as on enhancing connectivity", the MEA statement said.
"Promoting the stability and the development of the Asia Pacific region is the common responsibility of the regional countries".
The external affairs ministry said the discussions focused on cooperation based on converging vision and values for promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in an increasingly inter-connected region. "The development of any country, any region should correspond with the trend of the times and trend of the world", he said.
"I think all relevant parties can put forward their vision and proposal on how to develop cooperation between the countries and regions".
Japan on Sunday held the first formal deliberations giving a booster to the new block created essentially to counter China " s growing influence - at the regional level and also globally".