New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) Against the backdrop of tensions in South China Sea and China's assertiveness, India and the US Tuesday held their fifth regional dialogue on Asia-Pacific, with US Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell lauding India's "enormously important" role in the region.
Campbell, US assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, held wide-ranging talks with Gautam Bambawale, joint secretary in charge of East Asia in the external affairs ministry.
Issues relating to South China Sea, freedom of navigation, North Korea's recent defiant launch of the rocket, China's perceived assertiveness in East Asia and Myanmar's moves towards democratisation were discussed between the two sides.
"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," the US embassy said in a statement.
After the talks, Campbell told reporters that the dialogue was significant in view of India's "enormously important" role in East Asia.
He cited 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 significance after the US prioritized the Asia-Pacific region as a key thrust of its foreign policy and exhorted India "to act and think East".
The East Asia dialogue is part of a string of high-profile India-US diplomatic engagements over the next few weeks that are expected to set the stage for External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna's visit to Washington for strategic dialogue later this year.
The talks between Home Secretary R.K. Singh and US Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security Jane Lute April 19-20 are expected to discuss issues relating to security and counter-terrorism.
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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