India's role in Asia-Pacific enormously important: US
New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) India and the US Tuesday held their fifth regional dialogue on Asia-Pacific to take stock of the present strategic, economic and security situation in the region, amidst rising tension in South China Sea over territorial disputes and a defiant North Korea's failed attempt at a rocket launch.
Part of a string of efforts to infuse momentum to their bilateral ties, the US side was led by its Assistant Secretary East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell and India by Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary Gautam Bambawale.
Soon after the talks, an US embassy release here said: 'Both sides discussed a wide range of global trends and regional issues of mutual concern and committed to continue the exchange regularly in the future.'
Campbell himself was gung-ho over the talks, telling reporters outside South Block here that the dialogue was significant in view of India's 'enormously important' role among the nations of East Asia.
He gave the example of last month's talks between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak in Seoul during a bilateral visit.
'Among the countries of the lower Mekong, there is an enormously important role that India plays,' Campbell said.
'They (Indians) have an interest in strategic interactions...you would have seen the recent meetings between the Indian prime minister and the president of Korea...it reflects dramatically improving relations between India and other countries in northeast Asia, Japan, South Korea and also China as a whole,' he said.
'India's role in Asia extends to every dimension of national power -- economic, strategic, people to people, cultural and military. So, we think that this development will be one of the most important elements of Asia in the 21st Century,' he added.
The dialogue on East Asia has acquired an added traction after the US prioritized the Asia-Pacific region as a key thrust of its foreign policy and exhorted India 'to act and think East'.
In the recent months, Myanmar has taken encouraging steps towards democratisation, with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi contesting and winning a parliamentary by-poll.
China's assertiveness in the South China Sea in recent months has prompted India to declare the disputed sea as the 'property of the world' and flag issues relating to freedom of navigation in that part of the globe.
On North Korea, both the US and India have voiced deep concern over the April 13 failed rocket test by Pyongyang and have their own opinions on how the Korean peninsula needs to be denuclearised.
This East Asia dialogue is to be followed by talks between Indian Home Secretary R.K. Singh and US Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security Jane Lute April 19-20.
Later, there will be a India-Japan-US trilateral dialogue in Tokyo April 23. The inaugural dialogue, which had upset Beijing, was held in December last year in Washington.
Amid China's anxieties, the three countries have made it clear that their trilateral was not directed at any third country, but was only aimed at deepening areas of cooperation and dialogue on issues of concern among themselves.
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