NEW DELHI: In an important discussion post the Biden administration assuming office, the Quad on Thursday reiterated importance of a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ and stressed the importance of a return to democracy in Myanmar.
The foreign ministers of India, US, Japan and Australia met for the third time in the Quad format on Thursday evening with MEA saying, “Their productive exchange of views on regional issues included a reiteration of their common vision for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, with clear support for ASEAN cohesion and centrality. It was noted that the Indo-Pacific concept had gathered growing international support, including in Europe.”
The meeting underlined India’s commitment to the Quad even though a disengagement process with China is under way in eastern Ladakh.
Stressing the centrality of ASEAN, the MEA said, “In the discussion pertaining to recent developments in Myanmar, upholding of the rule of law and democratic transition was reiterated by India.” The Indian statement also emphasises the importance of sovereignty and territorial integrity. All four nations issued separate statements.
In its statement, Japan said, “Foreign Minister Motegi expressed serious concern with regard to China’s Coast Guard Law, and the four ministers concurred to strongly oppose unilateral and forceful attempts to change the status quo in the context of the East and South China Sea.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted : “I look forward to deepening our cooperation on climate change and Covid-19, supporting ASEAN centrality, and advancing our vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
A statement by the US State Department said the four ministers — S Jaishankar, Anthony Blinken, Toshimitsu Motegi and Marise Payne — would meet annually while senior officials would meet more than once every year.
The MEA statement said the ministers “recognised that the changes under way in the world make a strong case for their countries working closely together. It was important for the international community that the direction of changes remains positive and beneficial to all”. This was the only oblique reference to China whose growth, expansionism and aggression is seen as a growing threat.
The US statement said, “The ministers also discussed countering disinformation, counterterrorism, maritime security, the urgent need to restore the democratically elected government in Burma (Myanmar), and the priority of strengthening democratic resilience in the broader region.”