On June 7, officials at the level of joint secretaries/director generals from the four nations met for the second time after its revival.
The grouping of four democracies –India, Australia, US and Japan– known as the quadrilateral security dialogue or quad, was first mooted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007. However, the idea couldn’t move ahead with Australia pulling out of it, apparently due to Chinese pressure. The United States has been moving in all directions to make allies to contain China’s rise. The attempts to engage more with the east through Obama’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ and now ‘Indo-Pacific’ partnerships, all are strategic actions the US is taking. All four nations find a common ground of being the democratic nations and common interests of unhindered maritime trade and security.
Why is Quad in news now?
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The strategy to confront China underscored a growing regional competition between Beijing and Washington. The Quad meeting came as the US appeared to be shifting strategic focus. As Trump had referred to the region as the ‘Indo-Pacific’ rather than the ‘Asia-Pacific’, clearly underlining the policy tilt, which is annoying Beijing.
The group has recently met in Singapore. On June 7, officials at the level of joint secretaries/director generals from the four nations met for the second time after its revival. India was represented by joint secretary (East Asia) and joint secretary (America) in the Ministry of External Affairs. The officials deliberated on ways to pursue shared objectives in the areas of connectivity and development, regional security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HARD) and maritime cooperation.
Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said it was a regular ASEAN-related meeting between senior officers.
Another meeting on the sidelines was also held between the Quad countries. The meeting was attended by joint secretaries in-charge of East Asia and America. The Indian side highlighted New Delhi’s vision for the Indo-Pacific region as outlined in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s keynote address at Shangri-La Dialogue, Indian Express reported.
The participants reaffirmed their support for a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific Region. They also confirmed their common commitment, based on shared values and principles, to promote a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific.
The first meeting
With the aim to counter China’s aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region, India, Australia, US and Japan, formed the “quadrilateral” coalition on November 12, 2017, and held a meeting a day before the ASEAN Summit. Officials from India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and United State’s Department of State met in Manila for consultations on issues of common interest in the Indo-Pacific region. Soon after the meeting, India, Australia and Japan issued separate statements listing the Indo-Pacific as the major area of the deliberations and resolved to expand cooperation to uphold a rules-based order and respect for international law in the strategically important region.
This was the first meeting of the group after its ‘re-organisation’ after Australia showed willingness to join the group.
Then, the discussions focused on cooperation based on their converging vision and values for the promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in an increasingly inter-connected region that they share with each other and with other partners, an MEA release stated.
They agreed that a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large. The officials also exchanged views on addressing common challenges of terrorism and proliferation linkages impacting the region as well as on enhancing connectivity, a press release issued by India said.
The Japanese foreign ministry said officials discussed measures to ensure a free and open international order based on the rule of law in the Indo- Pacific. “From this perspective, the participants discussed the direction for cooperation, including with countries in the region, in upholding the rules-based order and respect for international law in the Indo-Pacific,” it said. The Australian foreign ministry said the four countries shared a vision for increased prosperity and security in the Indo-Pacific region and will work together to ensure that it “remains free and open,” PTI reported.
Moreover, it underlines the rising significance of maritime geopolitics in an increasingly integrated world. Economically, the strategy is regarded as an answer to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is establishing a China-centric trade route.