Trans-Pacific View

US Will Hold Elevated Trilateral Dialogue with India and Japan

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Trans-Pacific View

US Will Hold Elevated Trilateral Dialogue with India and Japan

US vice-president announces ministerial level trilateral in a further boost for cooperation.

US Will Hold Elevated Trilateral Dialogue with India and Japan

Ships from the US, India and Japan participate in the 2007 Malabar exercises.

Credit: US Navy Photo

The United States, Japan and India will elevate their trilateral dialogue to a ministerial level this fall in another boost for cooperation between the three nations, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announced Monday.

Speaking at a conference on U.S.-India relations at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, Biden said the three countries would seek to upgrade their existing trilateral dialogue — first held in 2011 — to the level of the foreign ministers. The focus, Biden indicated, would be to strengthen the East Asia Summit (EAS), an annual forum attended annually by the leaders of 18 countries including the United States and India. As the region commemorates the tenth anniversary of the EAS this year, Washington and others have been pushing to deepen its institutionalization and boost its ability to handle global crises (See: “Malaysia as ASEAN Chair in 2015: What to Expect”).

“We’re also looking to schedule a ministerial level trilateral with Japan this fall to strengthen the East Asia Summit on its tenth anniversary,” Biden said.

The U.S.-India-Japan trilateral is one of several such arrangements that the United States is pursuing with allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific, Others include U.S.-Japan-Korea and U.S.-Australia-Japan, while still others are also being discussed among experts at various levels (See: “The Future of US-Japan-Vietnam Trilateral Cooperation“).

While reports had emerged last year that the countries were looking to elevate their trilateral dialogue, the last U.S.-India-Japan trilateral dialogue held in Honolulu this past month — its seventh iteration — featured officials at the same level. On the U.S. side, the discussion was co-chaired by Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel. Biden’s comments suggest that the fall meeting will finally feature officials at a higher level.

Biden said that the upgrading of the trilateral dialogue was indicative of the immense progress that the United States and India had made in their bilateral relationship over the past few years, particularly with the convergence of between Washington’s ‘rebalance’ and India’s Look East policy in the Asia-Pacific. On the security side, pointed to the example of the Malabar exercises, initially a U.S.-India bilateral naval exercise which has included Japan during several iterations and will again this year (See: “Japan to Join US, India in Military Exercises This Year”).

“When a small naval exercise called Malabar was first envisioned at a conference center twenty five years ago in Virginia, few could have imagined that one day it would include Japan,” Biden said.

He also said U.S.-India cooperation on aircraft carrier technology was making further advances. Earlier this year, U.S. officials had indicated that Washington would be willing to sell aircraft-carrier related technologies to India, including the EMALS catapult system for India’s aircraft carrier which currently lacks one. In a step forward, Biden said that a high-level Indian delegation would visit Newport News this fall for briefings and a tour of the USS Gerald Ford, the United States’ newest aircraft carrier, for whom the US firm General Atomics developed EMALS (See: “India’s New Aircraft Carrier Plans May Get a Boost”).

“Our emerging carrier cooperation epitomizes the strength of our security partnership and it’s a signal both of how far we have come and the potential for the future,” Biden said at the conference which was held in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the U.S.-India civil nuclear deal which was inked by the two sides in July 2005.