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US looking at working-level quadrilateral with India, Japan, Australia: Official

The quadrilateral is a natural expression and convergence of interests between democratic countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

world Updated: Oct 28, 2017 09:37 IST
Press Trust of India, Washington
Indo-US ites,Quadrilateral,Japan
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Prime Minister's residence in New Delhi on October 25.(AFP file)

The US is looking at a “working-level” quadrilateral meeting in the near term with India, Japan and Australia and offer countries in the Indo- Pacific region - an alternative to predatory financing or unsustainable debt, the Trump Administration has said.

The US on Friday came out in support of the Japanese move in this regard, which was revealed early this week by Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono in an interview to Nikkei business daily, by asserting that the quadrilateral group is a “natural stepping stone” from the very productive trilateral conversations, exercises, and cooperation it has had with Japan and Australia.

Acting assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice G Wells told reporters here that she expects the first of those meeting at the working level to be held fairly soon, which includes her counterparts in India, Japan and Australia.

Responding to questions, Wells refuted reports that such a move is aimed at containing China.

But she did referred to “predatory financing” a term increasingly being used by the US for China’s developmental and assistance model to the countries in the region, as being on the agenda of the four countries - India, US, Japan and Australia.

“I think it’s hard to see a meeting of diplomats from four countries as a plan to contain China,” said Wells, who accompanied the secretary of state Rex Tillerson on his maiden trip to South Asia - Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

The quadrilateral is a natural expression and convergence of interests between democratic countries in the Indo-Pacific region and it’s a natural stepping stone from the very productive trilateral conversations, exercises, and cooperation between India, Japan, and the US, she said.

“The countries that share values have an opportunity to provide alternatives to countries in the region who are seeking needed investment in their infrastructure and in their economic development, and so making sure that we coordinate our initiatives and provide these countries with alternatives that don’t include predatory financing or unsustainable debt, that would certainly be on the agenda,” Wells said.

“The quadrilateral that the Japanese foreign minister discussed would be building on what has been a very productive trilateral that we have with India and Japan, and if you look at the largest military exercise that we do, Malabar, Japan is a part of that exercise,” she said.

“As we explore ways to deepen and try to inculcate some of the values – freedom of navigation, maritime security, humanitarian assistance, disaster response, transparency – Australia would be a natural partner in that effort as well,” she said.

“We’re looking at a working-level quadrilateral meeting in the near term, but I think the idea is how do we bring together countries that share these same values to reinforce these values in the global architecture,” the top American diplomat said.

Wells said the quadrilateral is a positive vision.

“As Secretary of Defense (Jim) Mattis said, two weeks ago, there are many belts and many roads. So what does the US have to offer? What does the US, Japan, Australia, other countries, India, other countries that share the values of transparency, sustainable debt, responsible development – what do we have to offer,” she noted.

This is not to counter something; it is a positive vision of what important democracies in the Indo-Pacific region should be doing and how these four countries can work better together.

“How do we work with one another, the countries of the region, to make sure that our development projects are mutually reinforcing, and how do we build on connectivity so that there is an alternative and very sustainable initiative that can address legitimate development needs of these countries?” she said.

First Published: Oct 28, 2017 09:36 IST