WASHINGTON, Dec 20 (IANS): India, US and Japan held their first trilateral meeting here, with Washington and Tokyo affirming a deepening of strategic ties with India and making it clear the dialogue was not directed against China.
In fact, after a meeting with visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba Monday shortly before the official level trilateral, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington supported a similar trilateral meeting between US, Japan and China as proposed by Tokyo.
"The United States supports a meeting between Japan, China, and ourselves, as Foreign Minister Gemba recently proposed," Clinton said at a press conference after the meeting which "covered global issues like Iran's nuclear ambitions and the situation in Afghanistan".
Echoing Clinton, Gemba citing the Japan-US-India trilateral dialogue "as a specific example of collaboration" said: "On India, as the secretary suggested, we affirmed that Japan and the United States are deepening strategic relationship with India".
The meeting, at officials' level, was co-chaired by Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell. India was represented by Jawed Ashraf and Gautam Bambawale, joint secretaries in charge of Americas and East Asia respectively.
Later in a press release, the Indian embassy said at their first ever trilateral dialogue the three sides "exchanged views on a wide range of regional and global issues of mutual interest.
"These discussions mark the beginning of a series of consultations among our three governments, who share common values and interests across the Asia-Pacific and the globe," the embassy said.
"All sides welcomed the frank and comprehensive nature of the discussions, and agreed the talks help advance their shared values and interests," it added.
The group agreed to meet again in Tokyo in 2012 to continue their deliberations.
Driven by Tokyo and finalised during then foreign secretary Nirupama Rao's visit to Japan in April 2010, the dialogue is also part of New Delhi's effort to go beyond the stated Look East policy and engage North Asia as well.
The trilateral has been in the making for a long time, but the first meeting came at a time when China is becoming increasingly assertive in East Asia and the US is seeking to ramp up its engagement with the Asia-Pacific region that includes some of the fast-growing economies in the world.
Meanwhile, Hemant K. Singh, former Indian ambassador to Japan, and Karl F. Inderfurth, former US assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, who have been part of the track II trilateral meetings said in a commentary that "relations between the three (nations) are in a transformational stage".
The Washington trilateral "provides an opportunity to begin the process of operationalising Indo-Pacific cooperation as a seamless construct in areas such as maritime security cooperation, counter-terrorism, counter-piracy, counter-proliferation, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance", they said.