- At the Quad Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Melbourne on Friday, respective Foreign Ministers reaffirmed their support to principles of openness, protection of national sovereignty and observance of rules and fair play.
- It was attended by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his counterparts Marise Payne (Australia), Antony Blinken (the US) and Yoshimasa Hayashi (Japan).
- It was the third in-person meeting of Quad foreign ministers, following their meeting in Tokyo in October 2020 and the inaugural meeting in New York in September 2019.
- The foreign ministers of the Quad grouping of India, the US, Australia and Japan vowed to work vigorously to achieve the grouping’s shared vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and collectively deal with common threats such as terrorism.
- Discussions centred around issues of cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and the progress made so far as well as current geopolitical events.
History of the Formation of the Quad
- Following the Indian Ocean tsunami, India, Japan, Australia, and the US created an informal alliance to collaborate on disaster relief efforts.
- In 2007, then PM of Japan, Shinzo Abe, formalised the alliance, as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or the Quad.
- The Quad was supposed to establish an Asian Arc of Democracy but was hampered by a lack of cohesion amongst its members and accusations that the group was nothing more than an anti-China bloc.
- The early iteration of the Quad, largely based around maritime security, eventually dissipated.
- In 2017, faced again with the rising threat of China, the four countries revived the Quad, broadening its objectives and creating a mechanism that aimed to slowly establish a rules-based international order.
- However, despite its lofty ambitions, the Quad is not structured like a typical multilateral organisation and lacks a secretariat and any permanent decision-making body.
- Instead of creating policy along the lines of the European Union or United Nations, the Quad has focused on expanding existing agreements between member countries and highlighting their shared values.
- Additionally, unlike NATO, the Quad does not include provisions for collective defence, instead choosing to conduct joint military exercises as a show of unity and diplomatic cohesion.
- In 2020, the trilateral India-US-Japan Malabar naval exercises expanded to include Australia, marking the first official grouping of the Quad since its resurgence in 2017 and the first joint military exercises among the four countries in over a decade.
What Integrates QUAD Member Nations?
- Quad’s shared vision of a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific is being pursued to ensure peace, stability, and economic prosperity in the region.
- As leading democracies, we pursue our shared vision of upholding a rules-based international order free from coercion, one based on respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, the rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation in the international seas, and peaceful resolution of disputes.
- There is ample scope to work together on global issues such as terrorism, cyber security, maritime security, and disinformation that India continues to pursue an “agile” and multidimensional strategy towards the Indo-Pacific.
Quad’s positive and ambitious agenda
- It focuses on working closely with Indo-Pacific partners to address the region’s most important challenges. Working together as the Quad, we are more effective in delivering practical support to the region.
- Quad partners champion a free, open and inclusive rules-based order, rooted in international law that protects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of regional countries.
- It opposes coercive economic policies and practices that run counter to this system and will work collectively to foster global economic resilience against such actions.
Key Takeaways from this Meeting
Clear Message to China
- As China flexes its muscle in the Indo-Pacific region, the Quad nations — the US, India, Japan, and Australia — on Friday pledged to keep the region free from “coercion” and ensure freedom of navigation.
- The Quad Foreign Ministers vowed to ramp up cooperation to keep the Indo-Pacific region free from bullying, opposed “coercive” economic policies, denounced the use of terrorist proxies for cross-border terrorism, and asserted that Afghan territory should not be used to threaten or attack any country.
Discussion on Ukraine
- The Ukraine crisis was also discussed at the fourth meeting of the Quad Foreign Ministers with Blinken saying Russia would face “massive consequences” if it renewed aggression towards the Eastern European nation and that Washington is following an approach of diplomacy and dialogue to resolve the issue.
- The Quad Foreign Ministers also repeatedly denounced the use of terrorist proxies for cross-border terrorism and urged countries to work together to eliminate terrorist safe havens, disrupt terrorist networks, infrastructure and financial channels that sustain them.
- In this context, it called on all countries to ensure that territory under their control is not used to launch terror attacks and to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of such attacks.
- It also reiterated condemnation of terrorist attacks in India, including the 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot attacks.
On Maritime Security
- Without naming China, the Quad Foreign Ministers also resolved to meet challenges to the maritime rules-based order, including in the South and East China Seas.
- The statement said the Quad is determined to deepen engagement with regional partners to strengthen maritime domain awareness, enhance the ability to develop offshore resources and ensure freedom of navigation and overflight besides combating challenges such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
The Quad joint statement said that the member countries remained gravely concerned about the crisis in Myanmar and called for an “end to violence, the release of all those arbitrarily detained, including foreigners, and unhindered humanitarian access.”
About the COVID-19 pandemic, it said Quad partners have collectively provided more than 500 million vaccine doses and that they have pledged to donate more than 1.3 billion vaccine doses globally.
The Quad Ministerial meeting in Melbourne, meant to set the stage for a meeting by the leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. later this year in Tokyo, ended with outcomes that showcased its “positive agenda” in the Indo-Pacific region.