China hopes quadrilateral meet on 'Indo-Pacific' concept not directed against it


An External Affairs Ministry statement in New Delhi said foreign officials from India, Australia, Japan and the USA met in the Philippines capital and held consultations "on issues of common interest in the Indo-Pacific region".

Senior officials from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have met today with India's Ministry of External Affairs, Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the United States' Department of State to discuss a shared vision for increased prosperity and security in the Indo-Pacific region and to work together to ensure it remains free and open.

The quadrilateral meeting of officials of the four countries in Manila - their leaders chose to have lower-level diplomats meet in a cautious beginning - has been followed closely by Beijing and strategic experts in China, coming on the heels of the Donald Trump administration rolling out an "Indo-Pacific" strategy that suggests a more broad approach to the region. The significance of the statement lies in the fact that India has highlighted the links between North Korea and Pakistan in the development of their nuclear programmes.

India, Australia, Japan and the USA on Sunday agreed that "a free, open, prosperous and inclusive" Indo-Pacific served long-term global interests, giving impetus to an emerging quad of democracies amid Chinas rising military and economic power.

Political analysts say that with growing anxiety in the Indo-Pacific with Chinese assertiveness, further complicated by the uncertainty over US's role in the region, it is not surprising that the quadrilateral dialogue has been revived.

"The officials examined ways to achieve common goals and address shared challenges in the region".

The Indian statement noted that the discussions focused on cooperation based on "converging vision and values for the promotion of peace, stability, and prosperity in an increasingly inter-connected region that they share with each other and with other partners". This includes upholding the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific and respect for global law, freedom of navigation and overflight; increase connectivity; coordinate on efforts to address the challenges of countering terrorism and upholding maritime security in the Indo-Pacific.

Responding to a question about persistent references of Indo-Pacific by the US and Japan saying that they want to establish leaders' dialogue mechanism between India, US, Japan and Australia and Tokyo's willingness to conduct cooperation with China under the new concept, Geng said China has noted the Japanese statement in this regard.

The formation of a quadrilateral security dialogue comprising India, the US, Australia and Japan was first mooted around 10 years ago but it did not see the light of day.

Indo-Pacific broadly refers to the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean regions, which also includes the disputed South China Sea where Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Brunei question China's claims over nearly the entire waterway.

The Indian team consisted of the Joint Secretary in charge of the East Asia division in the MEA, Pranay Verma, and the Joint Secretary in charge of the South division in the MEA, Vinay Kumar.