Osaka (Japan): Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday discussed ways to jointly build infrastructure and ensure peace and security in the maritime zone with a ‘strong naval cooperation’ in the Indo-Pacific region in mind.

The two trilateral meetings, RIC (Russia, India and China) and JAI (Japan, America and India), along with informal BRICS meet dominated the day.

According to a White House statement, the three leaders of JAI also decided to make the summit meetings under this format an annual affair to “ensure successful cooperation in multiple areas, including maritime security, quality infrastructure, and advancing peace and prosperity in the Indian Ocean and Pacific region and beyond.”

The trilateral military cooperation holds significance in view of China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea and the Indian ocean.

The three countries also hold the annual Malabar naval exercise which includes diverse activities, ranging from fighter combat operations from aircraft carriers through Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercises.

To counter the growing Chinese assertiveness, the US has been pushing India to assume a bigger role in the region, particularly in the maritime zone which stretches from Africa to the west coast of the US.

The official said the leaders planned to discuss “strong naval cooperation”, following up on a recent joint exercise in the South China Sea.

China has been laying its claim on the South China Sea and demonstrating its assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region, to the discomfort of the US and Japan, besides countries in South East Asia.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, while briefing the media on the JAI trilateral, said, “The main topic of the discussion was the Indo-Pacific, about how the three countries can work together in terms of connectivity, in terms of infrastructure, in terms of ensuring that peace and security is maintained and in terms of working together to build upon this new concept so that it benefits the region as a whole and for the three countries of course.”

Significantly, ahead of the JAI trilateral, Trump told Modi during their bilateral meeting, “We will work together in many ways, including military.”

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, during his visit to New Delhi earlier this week, highlighted that Indian Navy had recently joined the American counterpart, alongside those of Japan and the Philippines for “group sail for the first time in the South China Sea, where we are able to reinforce our partnership in the field of navigation throughout the international waterways.”

(With IANS Inputs)