With China on mind, India, Japan, South Korea hold trilateral
New Delhi, June 29 (IANS) With China's growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, India, Japan and South Korea - Asia's three leading democracies - Friday held their first trilateral meeting here and pitched for freedom of seas and expanding their multifaceted cooperation.
The three sides discussed a host of regional and global issues to cement their trilateral cooperation cutting across diverse areas, including maritime cooperation, security, terrorism, and trade and investment.
The trilateral dialogue seeks to address the three major themes - the evolving Asian security architecture, non-traditional security issues and prospects and challenges for this process.
The India-Japan-South Korea trilateral seeks to reinforce the India-Japan-US trilateral dialogue that also focuses on expanding strategic and maritime cooperation.
They identified the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), Korea National Diplomatic Academy, and Tokyo Foundation as the three partnering institutions to carry forward the trilateral dialogue.
"Being leading democracies of the world, we share a common commitment to democratic values, open society, human rights and the rule of law," Sanjay Singh, Secretary (East) in the external affairs ministry, said while underlining a congruence of strategic interests of the three leading economies of the region.
"We seek a peaceful and secure Asia free from the threats of terrorism, proliferation, piracy and conflict between states," he said.
Although China was not mentioned explicitly, it was very much the elephant in the room, with discussions focusing on maritime cooperation and freedom of navigation in international sea lanes of communication.
"There is common commitment to maintaining freedom of the seas, combating terrorism and promoting inclusive economic growth. India, Japan and ROK depend heavily on the Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOCs) for their energy security," Singh said.
"These are also the mainstay for trade and connectivity amongst our countries and other countries in the region. India has a valued geostrategic location straddling the SLOCs," he said.
In this context, the three sides noted that like the Indian Ocean Rim, South China Sea has tremendous potential for cooperation, but is "is witnessing competing claims".
"Our common objective is to see that the seas and oceans become regions of cooperation instead of competition, particularly as our energy security and trade depends on them," Singh said.
Underlining the need for maritime cooperation, the sides discussed ways to expand trilateral cooperation to deal the conventional risks associated with nuclear power and confront the risks of nuclear and missile proliferation in our neighbourhoods.
"Deepening cooperation amongst our defence and security establishments will promote our mutual security," said Singh.
Beijing has yet to react to the India-Japan-South Korea trilateral, but it has been uneasy about leading democracies of the region getting together in what it sees as an exercise in encirclement of a rising China.
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