Senior officials from Quad nations — the US, India, Australia and Japan — have discussed ways to advance ongoing cooperation in various areas of mutual interest, including strengthening international institutions including the UN, promoting democracy and human rights and supporting countries vulnerable to "coercive actions" in the Indo-Pacific region. The officials of the four nations met virtually on Thursday as part of regular Quad consultations to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific region, the US State Department said in a statement.
This meeting sought to build on and implement the historic discussions held between US President Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Prime Minister Modi, and Japanese Premier Suga during the inaugural Quad Leaders' Summit on March 12, 2021. They welcomed the opportunity to continue regular consultations at the ministerial, senior official, and working levels and to hold a second Leaders' Summit this fall, the statement said.
The four countries had in 2017 given shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the "Quad" or the Quadrilateral coalition to counter China's aggressive actions in the Indo-Pacific region. "The four democracies acknowledged that global security and prosperity depends on the region remaining inclusive, resilient, and healthy," the statement said.
"The officials examined ways to advance ongoing cooperation on numerous topics of mutual interest, including strategic challenges confronting the region, countering disinformation, promoting democracy and human rights, strengthening international institutions including the United Nations and related organisations, and supporting countries vulnerable to coercive actions in the Indo-Pacific region," it said. China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Beijing has also made substantial progress in militarising its man-made islands in the past few years.
Beijing claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. But Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims. In the East China Sea, China has territorial disputes with Japan. The officials of the Quad nations during Thursday's meeting also discussed the importance of sustained international cooperation to end the COVID-19 pandemic in the Indo-Pacific and to promote economic recovery, the statement said.
The senior officials discussed the importance of peace and security in the Taiwan Strait, the ongoing crisis in Myanmar, and reaffirmed the Quad's strong support for ASEAN centrality and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. Japanese Foreign Ministry in a statement said the officials concurred on further advancing practical cooperation among the four countries on quality infrastructure, maritime security, counter-terrorism, cyber-security, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief toward the achievement of a free and open Indo-Pacific. The officials welcomed the fact that a Free and Open Indo-Pacific is a vision for the peace and prosperity of the region and its importance in the post-COVID world is increasing and that this vision has spread in the international community, including ASEAN and Europe. They reaffirmed the importance of broadening cooperation with more countries for its further achievement.
The officials reaffirmed their strong support for ASEAN's unity and centrality as well as the ASEAN-led regional architecture, and their full support for the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP). The officials shared the view on continuing regular consultations and on coordinating to hold an in-person summit by the end of this year, in addition to holding a Foreign Minister's meeting at least once a year, as concurred by the four leaders at the March Leaders' Video Conference.
Vani Rao, Joint Secretary (Americas) and Naveen Srivastava, Additional Secretary (East Asia), from the Ministry of External Affairs represented India at the meeting.