Thursday, January 20, 2022

Quad Strengthens Cooperation In The Indo-Pacific

Japan hosted the 2nd India-Australia-Japan-US Quadrilateral (Quad) Ministerial meeting. India’s Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar along with the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Australian Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu met in Tokyo to discuss the challenges and opportunities in the post Covid-19 international order. The meeting holds importance given the strategic backdrop of an ongoing pandemic, uncertain global economic outlook, intensifying US-China competition and escalating regional tensions.

The first India-Australia-Japan-US Quad ministerial meeting was held in the US on the side-lines of UN General Assembly meetings in September 2019 with the objective of advancing openness and economic prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. The focus was on supporting a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific.

As the ministers gathered in Tokyo, the agenda was to develop a coordinated response to deal with the post-pandemic challenges — from making affordable vaccines and sharing each other’s best practices in fighting the coronavirus on the one hand and dealing with the severe economic contraction across the world and ensuing financial problems on the other.

One of the key priorities remain upholding the rules-based order, reinforced by the rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation, respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty and peaceful resolution of disputes. ASEAN centrality and ASEAN-led regional architecture remains the key pillar in furthering a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and maintaining strategic stability in the region.

There is deeper strategic coordination and issue-based alignments amongst the Quad nations. Security cooperation is strengthened through logistics agreements. Furthermore, joint exercises have reinforced interoperability between these navies. India’s Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative plays an important role in advancing safe, secure and stable maritime domain. Also, buttressing robust 2+2 ministerial dialogues, and strategic Indo-Pacific trilaterals including the India-US-Japan and India-Japan-Australia have complemented the Quad.

Following the pandemic and the unfolding shifts in the global economic and technological setting, it is necessary to enhance the resilience of supply chains. Disruption in supply chains have emerged as a key concern for most economies following the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus linking value chains and creating a network of resilient supply chains with appropriate capacities, especially related to critical components, is a top priority. In this regard, some of the Quad members have taken concrete steps. For instance, Australia-India-Japan ‘Supply Chains Resilience Initiative’ is taking shape in order to build trustworthy, dependable and reliable supply chain in the Indo-Pacific region.

Building quality infrastructure and promoting regional connectivity is important in advancing free and open Indo-Pacific. In this regard, the Quad nations have supported adopting global best practices and upholding highest standards of governance, including securing transparent and sustainable financing. In addition, regional security challenges were discussed with focus on counter-terrorism, cyber and maritime security.

The Foreign Ministers arrived in Tokyo, quite soon after the new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga assumed charge in September following Shinzo Abe’s resignation. Former Japanese Prime Minister Abe is often considered as the key architect in pushing the Quad framework. The ministers expressed confidence in advancing Mr. Abe’s efforts in bringing together like-minded countries based on shared universal values and mutuality of strategic interests.

External Affairs Minister DR. Jaishankar, in his opening remarks at the Quad ministerial meeting,  has stressed that India intends to pursue “collective solutions to global challenges, including global recovery from the pandemic and reform of multilateral institutions” when it assumes responsibility as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for two years beginning 2021. During his visit, the External Affairs Minister also had bilateral discussions with his counterparts from the US, Australia and Japan. Japan is one of the key pillars of India’s ‘Act East’ policy. As Prime Minister Suga takes charge, India is confident in further accelerating the momentum set in the India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership.

Script: Dr. Titli Basu, Strategic Analyst on East & South-East Asia

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