Signalling their commitment to a “shared vision for the free and open Indo-Pacific” and a region that is “inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion”, the first summit of leaders of the Quadrilateral grouping Friday pledged to promote a “free, open rules-based order, rooted in international law to advance security and prosperity and counter threats to both in the Indo-Pacific and beyond”.
This is a thinly-veiled reference to China’s proactive and assertive activities in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond which the world views as belligerence.
This was the key takeaway after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden, Japan PM Yoshihide Suga and Australian PM Scott Morrison met through virtual mode for the first Quad summit.
The four leaders agreed that they will meet for an “in-person” summit by the end of the year. This could take place on the sidelines of a multilateral summit like the G-7 in UK in June or the G-20 in Italy in October, or in the US or another country.
All four leaders made statements flagging the issue of “free and open Indo-Pacific” — a reference to Chinese belligerence in the region.
“We are renewing our commitment to ensure that our region is governed by international law, committed to upholding universal values, and free from coercion,” Biden said.
Stressing that this is the first multilateral summit that he has had the opportunity to host as President, he said: “At this moment, it’s a purpose that I think we all are concerned about: a free and open Indo-Pacific is essential to each of our futures, our countries.”
“The Quad is going to be a vital arena for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. And I look forward to working closely with — with all of you in the coming years,” the US President said.
Modi said: “We are united by our democratic values and our commitment to a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific. Our agenda today — covering areas like vaccines, climate change, and emerging technologies — make the Quad a force for global good.”
“I see this positive vision as an extension of India’s ancient philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which regards the world as one family. We will work together, closer than ever before, for advancing our shared values and promoting a secure, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
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Today’s summit meeting shows that Quad had come of age. It will now remain an important pillar of stability in the region,” he said.
Morrison said: “As four leaders of great, liberal democracies in the Indo-Pacific, let our partnership be the enabler of peace, stability, and prosperity, and to do so inclusively with the many nations of our region to share in their vision, as expressed through ASEAN, for an open, inclusive — inclusive, and resilient Indo-Pacific; to respect and support their sovereignty, independence, and security by upholding our values and supporting international law; and to address the many challenges we face, from Covid to climate change.”
“As we emerge from this global pandemic and the global recession, let us together create a different future. It is the Indo-Pacific that will now shape the destiny of our world in the 21st century,” he said.
Suga said: “With the four countries working together, I wish to firmly advance our cooperation to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific and to make visible and tangible contribution to the peace, stability, and prosperity of the region, including overcoming Covid-19.”
The joint statement said: “We bring diverse perspectives and are united in a shared vision for the free and open Indo-Pacific… We strive for a region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion. On this historic occasion of March 12, 2021, the first-ever leader-level summit of the Quad, we pledge to strengthen our cooperation on the defining challenges of our time.”
“Together, we commit to promoting a free, open rules-based order, rooted in international law to advance security and prosperity and counter threats to both in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. We support the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes, democratic values, and territorial integrity. We commit to work together and with a range of partners.”