In a bid to advance openness and economic prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, foreign ministers of India, US, Australia and Japan met on Thursday to discuss collective efforts and commitment to close cooperation on counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime security cooperation, development finance, and cyber security efforts.
This is the first time that foreign ministers of the Quad countries have met, in a three-level upgrade from joint secretary-level officials. The Quad has met four times since November 2017, when it was revived.
“The US looks forward to another Quad senior officials’ meeting on the sidelines of the November 2019 East Asia Summit in Bangkok. We are very much looking forward to future productive discussions that will serve as a jumping-off point for even deeper cooperation in areas of mutual interest to our four countries and to our friends and partners in ASEAN and beyond,” a US State Department official said.
Another State Department official called it “a significant elevation of the level of the dialogue”.
“If I could single out India’s role in the Quad, I think it highlights India’s leadership in the Indo-Pacific region; it’s one of the many ways that the US and India are now cooperating closely on shared strategic objectives as highlighted during President Trump’s meeting with Prime Minister Modi earlier this week; the 2+2 structure that we’ve set up, and the deepening of our defence partnership, and trilateral relations with Japan as seen in the Malabar exercise that’s ongoing,” the US official said.
“We really do welcome and support India’s emergence as a net security provider in the region and a global actor, and we regard India’s contributions as vital to the safeguarding of a rules-based system in the Indo-Pacific. It reflects a shared commitment to uphold the rule of law, counterterrorism cooperation, freedom of navigation, democratic values, and economic growth. These are all values we want to advance across the region.”
In addition to work through the Quad, US officials said they are looking to expanding cooperation with India through bilateral mechanisms, but also in multilateral fora like those related to the ASEAN.
“I think there’s recognition that in the past we didn’t have that similar likemindedness necessarily among the four partners, and over the past two years we’ve been able to demonstrate what’s changed. We have a shared evaluation of the security threats and threats facing the region when countries don’t have options to develop in a sustainable and free manner, and that’s really brought our four nations together. Again, I would emphasise as one mechanism, one architecture that complements and supplements other formats that we are all engaged in to promote the free and open Indo-Pacific,” the official said.
On the possible threats, the official said, “I think there’s been unnecessary Kremlinology in trying to parse statements that are issued by the participating countries. It’s what unites all the statements. And that is the avowed expression of support for the values that undergird a free and open Indo-Pacific, and there we’re rock solid.”