The third round of Pakistan-Japan Security Dialogue was held at Islamabad on February 12 between the officials of the respective foreign ministries. Hiroshi Inomata, Director-General of the Southeast and West Asia Department of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, held talks with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir. The former appreciated Japan's role in peace, stability, and development, and as an important partner of Pakistan. He proposed much broader cooperation between the two countries through the development of joint commercial ventures and projects. Both countries are also participating in the Operation Enduring Freedom -Maritime Interdiction Operation (OEFMIO) in the Indian Ocean to combat terrorism and piracy. To share and closely underline coordination on mutual security and defence perspectives on regular basis, both countries established a joint Security Dialogue in 2002, following the high level exchanges made in August 2000 and March 2002. The initiative was taken by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The objective to set-up a joint Security Dialogue was also fully in line with Pakistan's Vision East Asia policy, which was later devised in October 2003, aiming at the strengthening of broad range of ties with the East Asian region in multidimensional directions. The first round of the Pakistan-Japan Security Dialogue was held at Islamabad on January 19, 2002. In order to extend the scope of the security dialogue, two agreements were made on January 5, 2006 at Islamabad (1) to deal with counter-terrorism issues, and (2) to discuss disarmament, non-proliferation, dual use of technology, the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, nuclear safety, and space technology. The decision was made when Taro Aso, the then Japanese foreign minister (now prime minister), made an official visit to Pakistan on January 4-5, 2006. The first round of Security Dialogue was held at Islamabad on January 24, 2004, while the second round of the Dialogue was held again at Tokyo on September 14, 2006. The recent Security Dialogue was held at a time when Japan is going to hold the session of the Friends of Pakistan forum next month to streamline financial assistance for Pakistan through a consortium of friendly countries created in last September at New York. Economic slowdown and Pakistan's active participation in war against terror are the main reasons for Japan's enhanced cooperation with Pakistan at this time in point. The new US administration under President Barack Obama is seriously considering to stabilise the security and political situation both in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to help normalise ties between Pakistan and India. These efforts are considered the best option to counter terrorism in the region and to mitigate militancy in the region. Against this context, the Pakistan-Japan Security Dialogue centres on such considerations. Japan is considering inviting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and ministers from more than ten countries and institutions including to discuss measures and ways and means to combat terrorism and develop Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, bordering Afghanistan. The moot is expected to be held at Tokyo in coming March. Ever since the 9/11 events, Pakistan is seeking closer security cooperation with Japan to root out terrorism in Afghanistan. With that purpose, the Joint Security Dialogue was set-up to enhance security and defence cooperation between the two countries. The Washington-Tokyo led initiative to meet Pakistan's financial and economic meltdown and to improve the security situation in and around Pakistan's region seems to be a better policy initiate. This initiative could mellow down criticism surrounding US anti-terrorism policy and to provide hope for economic build up and reconstruction in conflict-ridden areas of Pakistan. In order to further enhance security and economic cooperation between the two countries, high-level exchanges needed to be strengthened. The last visit by the Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi was made some three years ago on April 30 to May 01, 2005. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe curtailed his visit to India in September 2007, which dismayed Pakistan. Hitherto Japan maintained a balance and neutrality in its diplomatic policy toward South Asia. Nevertheless, Abe's 'India fever', Japan's tilt toward the Indo-US nuclear deal, Japanese willingness to sell nuclear material to India, and the Arc of Democracy and Freedom (an idea given by the then foreign minister, Taro Aso) to forge a group of countries comprising Japan, United States, Australia, India, and other Western democracies, to push democratic values in Asia, created anxiety and confusion about Japan's future policy toward Pakistan and Asia. Against this diplomatic, political, and security backdrop, a visit by a top Japanese leader to Pakistan as early as possible to remove suspicions and to create new opportunities for robust mutual harmony and cooperation on a solid footing, is urgently required. As Japan has security pacts with the United States, Australia, and also with India, the Pakistan-Japan Security Dialogue creates a balance in its (Japan's) security relations with Pakistan. Depending on the level and aspirations of security cooperation, this may lead toward the conclusion of a security pact between the two countries in the future. With the broadening of the discussion at the Security Dialogue, it seems that both countries could reach the substantive level of security cooperation. In the past, both countries happened to be natural allies of each other particularly in the i950s and the i960s under US strategic leadership. The Pakistan-Japan Security Dialogue fills gaps created from time to time in later years for one or the other reason and brings new contours for cooperation. In view of Japan's fast changing security role in the Asia-Pacific region and Pakistan's position as a frontline state against terrorism, Pakistan-Japan Security Dialogue tends to ensure stability and peace in the wider Asia-Pacific context with a focus on the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), with Japan as a Dialogue Partner, and an important financial provider of the OEF-MIO destined for anti-terrorism in the Indian Ocean. In short, the Pakistan-Japan Security Dialogue is working in the right direction to help stabilise the region by fulfilling the vacuum existing in the security sphere as a result of the regional and global security transformation. The writer is a research fellow at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI)