Melbourne: Australia wants India to play a greater role in Asia to ensure stability, the country's Defence Minister has said, labelling New Delhi as a positive force in the region, where China's military build-up is causing concern.

"It is in all our interests that India plays the role it could and should as an emerging great power in the security and stability of the region," Defence Minister Stephen Smith said, echoing similar appeal made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently.

Pointing out that Perth is closer to Chennai than Sydney is to Shanghai, Smith in a speech to the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington, said, "Our region needs to look west, as well as east."

The minister, who spoke on security in the Asia-Pacific region, said Canberra sought co-operation with Beijing, but devoted much of his speech to dwell on rising India.

Calling India as the largest democracy in the world, he said, New Delhi's role and significance could not be under-appreciated.

"India is the largest democracy in the world. As India assumes the mantle of global influence accorded to it by its democratic status, economic size and strength, its strategic weight in the world is naturally increasing," Smith said.

He urged a greater role for India in ensuring security and stability in the Indian Ocean region.

His remarks assume significance in the context of rising tensions in the Asia-Pacific region over the tussle for rights in the south China's sea, where Vietnam and Philippines have accused Beijing of provocations in recent months.

(Agencies)