Senior government officials from the United States and India agreed on Friday to further strengthen dialogue with Japan and Australia, the U.S. State Department said, amid increasing rivalry between Washington and Beijing.

The virtual meeting took place as the United States and India are preparing a bilateral “two-plus-two” meeting involving their foreign and defense ministers later this year.

During the talks, the United States underscored the importance of India’s status as a “major defense partner.” The two sides also discussed efforts to counteract “destabilizing” actions in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region, according to the department.

“Both sides agreed to further strengthen consultation through United States-India-Australia-Japan quadrilateral consultations,” the department said in a press release.

In August, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar agreed to hold four-way talks later this year.

The United States has been promoting cooperation with its security allies through multilateral frameworks, in a veiled counter to China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

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