New Delhi: India, Japan and the US have agreed to strengthen collaboration to promote connectivity in the Indo-Pacific region besides exploring ways to work together in areas like counter-terrorism and maritime security, the three countries said on Wednesday.

The ninth meeting of officials of the three countries, held in New Delhi, “explored practical steps to enhance cooperation in the areas of connectivity and infrastructure development; counter-proliferation; counter-terrorism; maritime security, maritime domain awareness and HA-DR (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief)," an Indian statement said.

“The officials reviewed the outcomes of the Trilateral Infrastructure Working Group that met in Washington in February and agreed to continue to collaborate to promote increased connectivity in the Indo-Pacific," the statement said.

“All sides agreed to remain engaged and strengthen cooperation in support of a free, open, prosperous, peaceful and inclusive Indo-Pacific region through partnership with countries in the region," it added.

The statements issued by the Japanese and American embassies in New Delhi were identical to the Indian statement.

Discussions among the three countries come against the backdrop of their common concerns vis-a-vis the rise of China.

“It (the meeting) is a reiteration of the trilateral framework, keeping it active," said C.U. Bhaskar, director of New Delhi-based think tank Society for Policy Studies.

The language used in the statement “aims not to antagonise China", he said, noting that a meeting of India, Japan, US and Australia—"The Quad Grouping"—in November 2017 had ruffled China’s feathers.

But the subtext in the reference to a “free, open, prosperous, peaceful and inclusive Indo-Pacific" in the statements was indicative of the countries’ concerns vis-a-vis an economically and militarily rising China, he said.

Other analysts say that the reference to connectivity in the statements by the three countries aims to counter China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—that aims to connect Asia, Africa and Europe though a series of railways, roads and ports.

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