In a nod to Quad, US, Australia call for rules-based order in Indo-Pacific

There was expectation in the run-up to their meeting that discussions would include a project the US, Australia, India and Japan were jointly considering to rival China’s ambitious multi-billion-dollar One Belt, One Road initiative.
US President Donald Trump (right) and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Friday.(AFP)
US President Donald Trump (right) and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Friday.(AFP)
Updated on Feb 24, 2018 11:17 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Washington | ByYashwant Raj, Washington

The US and Australia have called for a “free, open, and prosperous rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region,” echoing the central theme that binds The Quad, an emerging four-nation compact with India and Japan focussed on managing and countering the rise of China.

“We are committed to fostering an Indo-Pacific region where all countries abide by international law,” said the US-Australia joint statement after a meeting of their leaders Donald Trump and Malcom Turnbull at the White House on Friday. “A free, open, and prosperous rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region is in both our nations’ enduring national interests,” it said.

There was expectation in the run-up to their meeting that discussions would include a project the US, Australia, India and Japan were jointly considering to rival China’s ambitious multi-billion-dollar One Belt, One Road initiative. There was speculation they could announce it, something officials had dismissed as not “ripe enough”, The Australian Financial Review reported.

But the two countries, who are close allies, did say in the joint statement that they “intend to continue to use diplomacy and assistance to support good governance and smart development decisions in the region”.

Though there has been talk of the Quad — short for Quadrilateral — for a while, the four countries are taking another shot at it in efforts that began gathering steam around the time of US secretary of state Rex Tillerson’s visit to India. 

“We've long had a trilateral relationship in the Indo- Pacific between Japan, Australia, and the US, and we're now working towards whether this will become a quad relationship to include India because of the importance of India's rising economy as well and I think shared national security concerns that we have with India,” Tillerson had said in a speech before the visit in October.

The first formal meeting of Quad officials took place in November on the sidelines of the ASEAN meet in Manila, Philippines.

The participants “agreed that a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large”, India’s ministry of external affairs had said using the same language and terms the Quad members have tended to use.

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