At Quad meeting, US reaffirms commitment to ‘free’ Indo-Pacific

US secretary of state Antony Blinken met his counterparts - India’s S Jaishankar, Australia’s Marise Payne and Japan’s Toshimitsu Motegi - virtually. This was Blinken’s first Quad engagement and took place amid talk of a first summit-level meeting of the informal grouping that is said to be considering steps towards formalising it
This handout file photo taken and released by the Indian Navy on November 18, 2020 shows Indian army fighter jets on the deck of an aircraft carrier during the second phase of the Malabar naval exercise in the Arabian sea, conducted by India, Australia, Japan and the United States. (AFP)
This handout file photo taken and released by the Indian Navy on November 18, 2020 shows Indian army fighter jets on the deck of an aircraft carrier during the second phase of the Malabar naval exercise in the Arabian sea, conducted by India, Australia, Japan and the United States. (AFP)
Published on Feb 18, 2021 11:08 PM IST
Copy Link
ByYashwant Raj

The Biden administration on Thursday reiterated Washington’s commitment to an annual meeting of the foreign ministers of the Quad countries — with India, Japan and Australia — and its central cause of ensuring a “free and open Indo-Pacific region”, while India highlighted “practical cooperation in different domains to give our agenda a concrete shape”.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken met his counterparts — India’s S Jaishankar, Australia’s Marise Payne and Japan’s Toshimitsu Motegi— virtually. This was Blinken’s first Quad engagement and took place amid talk of a first summit-level meeting of the informal grouping that is said to be mulling steps towards formalising its engagements. At least one annual meeting of the foreign ministers, which was announced in 2020, is a step in that direction. The United States is said to be pushing for it and an announcement to this effect is awaited.

The four ministers discussed “cooperation on Covid-19 response and recovery and climate change and committed to working together to address these global challenges”, state department spokesperson Ned Price said in a readout of the meeting.

They also discussed “countering disinformation, counterterrorism, maritime security, and the urgent need to restore the democratically elected government” in Myanmar, which witnessed a military coup earlier this month.

The Biden administration signed on to the other elements of the Quad by reaffirming their mutual support for ASEAN centrality, which has been a key Indian position.

“They reiterated their commitment to the Quad meeting at least annually at the ministerial level and on a regular basis at senior and working levels to strengthen cooperation on advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region, including support for freedom of navigation and territorial integrity.”

External affairs minister Jaishankar said in a tweet after the meeting: “Our positive agenda underlines our shared commitment to global good. Discussed contemporary challenges, especially impact of Covid19.”

He added: “Exchanged perspectives on regional issues across the Indo-Pacific. Highlighted practical cooperation in different domains to give our agenda a concrete shape.”

The timing of the Quad ministerial appeared to be aimed at indicating the Biden administration buy-in — the last ministerial took place in October 2020 — to the grouping and in line with its emphasis on working with allies and partners, reversing the Trump administration’s tendency to go it alone, sometimes by questioning and alienating longstanding allies and alliances.

Blinken was to meet other allied groups on Thursday such as the so-called E-3, comprising France, Germany and the United Kingdom later in the day. On Monday, he is scheduled to participate in the European Union’s foreign affairs council at the invitation of EU High Representative Josep Borrell, Price said.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, November 28, 2021