Meeting early on Friday morning along the fringes of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Foreign Ministers of the Quad (India, Australia, Japan and the U.S.) reaffirmed the group’s commitment to a “free and open” Indo-Pacific region, where disputes are settled in accordance with international law. The Quad also committed itself to the principles of the UN charter and reform of the institution. A new initiative to help countries respond to terror attacks was also discussed on Friday, as per a joint readout of the meeting.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his counterparts discussed the outcome of the Quad Counterterrorism Working Group’s Consequence Management Exercise, which studied how the Quad could help regional countries that had experienced terror attacks. The Working Group is next scheduled to meet in Hawaii in December, where it will conduct a ‘tabletop’ exercise. The ministers stressed their commitment to countering terrorism, including terror financing and cross-border movement of terrorists and curbing the use of emerging technologies for terror purposes.
On Ukraine, the Quad readout struck a similar note to the recent G-20 joint statement from New Delhi. It expressed “deep concern”, calling for a “just” and “lasting” peace in Ukraine, without naming Russia as the aggressor.
“We express our deep concern over the war raging in Ukraine and mourn its terrible and tragic humanitarian consequences,” the statement said, adding, “We underscore the need for a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in Ukraine in accordance with international law, consistent with the principles of the UN Charter.”
Black Sea Grain Initiative
The Quad also backed the UN’s efforts to restart the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI), a deal that secures the export of grain from Ukraine and Russia. The agreement had expired in July with countries calling for its resumption, including at the G-20 in New Delhi.
The joint statement also calls for “comprehensive” UN reform, including expanding permanent and non-permanent representation on the UN Security Council.
“We underscore the need to address attempts to subvert the international system, including in the UN, and promote accountability,” the statement said, presumably referring to Russia’s use of the veto on the Security Council in actions related to the conflict in Ukraine.
The document also contained veiled references to China — respect for freedom of navigation and overflight as determined by UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and opposition to changes in the status quo through coercion.
“We continue to express serious concern about the militarisation of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels, and efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore exploitation activities,” the joint statement said.
On Noth Korea, the statement condemned Pyong Yang’s “destabilising” missile launches and pursuit of nuclear weapons. On Myanmar, the Quad supported a transition to an “inclusive federal democracy” and the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus (an April 2021 agreement between the Myanmar junta and the ASEAN group of countries).
The group reiterated its commitment to practical initiatives in the Indo-Pacific region, including the Quad Infrastructure Fellowship Programme, a pandemic preparedness exercise, and the development of a “trusted and secure” telecommunications network.
In terms of practical outcomes, the joint statement noted that the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness was helping to “combat illicit maritime activities and respond to climate-related and humanitarian events”. The joint statement declared that the Quad was delivering sustained economic and social value — as an example of its practical support for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).