Foreign ministry officials from India, Australia, Japan and the US met in Singapore on Thursday and reaffirmed their support for a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. This is the second meeting of the group, known as the 'quad' since November 2017. The countries started giving shape to their security cooperation under the proposed quadrilateral coalition when they held their first official-level talks on 12 November, 2017.
The four countries, on Thursday, focused on "free and open" Indo-Pacific region and reiterated their commitment to uphold and strengthen the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific.
None of the countries, however, used the term "quadrilateral" in their statement. All four statements (read here, here, here and here) mentioned the countries' strong support to ASEAN centrality in the Indo-Pacific region and noted their commitment to promote "rules-based" regional order.
The US, Australia and Japan statements also said that the four countries will hold consultations on a regular basis, suggesting that the frequency of the quadrilateral discussions would increase.
The Ministry of External Affairs said, in a statement, that the Indian side highlighted India's vision for the Indo-Pacific region as outlined in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's keynote address at Shangri-La Dialogue. Modi, in his address, had called the Indo-Pacific a "natural region".
"It is also home to a vast array of global opportunities and challenges. I am increasingly convinced with each passing day that the destinies of those of us who live in the region are linked. Today, we are being called to rise above divisions and competition to work together," he added.
"The ten countries of South East Asia connect the two great oceans in both the geographical and civilizational sense. Inclusiveness, openness and ASEAN centrality and unity, therefore, lie at the heart of the new Indo-Pacific," the prime minister had said.
Sources told The Indian Express that while Modi did not mention quadrilateral in his speech at the Shangri-La dialogue, India’s participation in Thursday's meeting gives a strong signal about its willingness to be a part of the grouping, aimed at countering Chinese assertiveness in Indo-Pacific region.
The quad's views also reflect New Delhi's stand that the 10-nation ASEAN regional bloc is central to peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.
The idea is for the four countries to promote free trade and defence cooperation across a stretch of ocean from the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and all the way to Africa.
The emerging quadrilateral is seen to counter China's aggressive maritime expansion under its Belt and Road Initiative.
During French president Emmanuel Macron's visit to India in March this year, both sides announced a broadening of their ties through a joint strategic vision for cooperation in the region that agreed on the need to establish an open, inclusive and transparent cooperation architecture for peace, security and prosperity there.
Though France is not against the quad of India, the US, Japan and Australia, Paris would rather like to work with New Delhi bilaterally in the Indian Ocean Region given that there are around two million French citizens in its territories in the region.
Thursday's meeting in Singapore came ahead of Modi's bilateral summit with Chinese president Xi Jinping in China on 9 June on the margins of this year's Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Jun 08, 2018 12:47:37 IST