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US says quadrilateral meet with India, Japan, Australia soon

Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono had earlier said that Tokyo will propose a “top-level dialogue with the US, India and Australia” to promote free trade and defence cooperation across the Indian Ocean.

world Updated: Oct 28, 2017 21:53 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
India,Japan,Australia
File photo of Alice Wells, acting head of the South and Central Asia bureau at the US state department.(AFP)

A senior United States official termed trilateral engagements with India and Japan as “very productive”, adding that they were a “stepping stone” for quadrilateral talks involving “natural ally” Australia, which could take place soon.

“We’re looking at a working-level quadrilateral meeting in the near term, but again, I think the idea is how do we bring together countries that share these same values to reinforce these values in the global architecture,” Alice Wells, acting head of the South and Central Asia bureau at the state department, told reporters.

“As we explore ways to deepen and try to inculcate some of the values – freedom of navigation, maritime security, humanitarian assistance, disaster response, transparency – obviously, Australia would be a natural partner in that effort as well,” she said.

But Wells pushed back pushed back against suggestions that these engagements were directed against any country, with reports suggesting that the four nations planning to contain China.

Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono had earlier said that Tokyo will propose a “top-level dialogue with the US, India and Australia” to promote free trade and defence cooperation across the Indian Ocean. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to bring up the same at his meeting with US President Donald Trump during latter’s visit on November 6.

The quadrilateral proposal came a day after US secretary of state Rex Tillerson proposed an alternate to China’s One Belt, On Road project in partnership with India during his visit to Delhi. Upon his return to Washington, Tillerson referred to the US, India, Japan and Australia as the four anchors of the Indo-Pacific region. Asked about the reaction from India during his visit, he said it was a new approach and one meant to move relations with “to that next level”.

Asked about the quadrilateral proposal, ministry of external affairs spokesman Raveesh Kumar said: “As far as we are concerned, we have an open mind to cooperate with countries with convergence but obviously on an agenda which is relevant to us.”

First Published: Oct 28, 2017 21:53 IST