Quad leaders express deep concern over consequences of Ukraine war

At a special meet held in Hiroshima, India, Japan, the U.S. and Australia recognised serious impact on global economic system; joint statement also opposes unilateral actions that threaten to disturb the peace in the Indo-Pacific

Updated - May 21, 2023 11:55 am IST

Published - May 20, 2023 08:21 pm IST - New Delhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, U.S. President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during the Quad Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima on May 20, 2023.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, U.S. President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during the Quad Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima on May 20, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Expressing “deep concern” over the continuing war in Ukraine, leaders of the Quad countries said that they “mourn” its consequences, and will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

In a statement issued after a shortened version of the Quad summit of India, Japan, the U.S. and Australia held in Hiroshima on Saturday, the leaders of the four countries also recommitted themselves to maintain and strengthen stability in the Indo-Pacific region according to international law.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joseph Biden participated in the meeting convened by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. They issued a joint vision statement, and three other statements setting out “Quad Principles” on clean energy supply chains, cybersecurity and secure software, and critical and emerging technology standards. The meeting hosted by Australia was held in Japan as the U.S. President decided earlier this week that he would cut short his visit to the region due to the U.S. Congressional logjam over debt default. Mr. Modi announced that the next Quad leaders’ meeting would be held in India in 2024.

“We express our deep concern over the war raging in Ukraine and mourn its terrible and tragic humanitarian consequences,” said the Quad joint statement, “We recognise its serious impacts on the global economic system including on food, fuel and energy security and critical supply chains.” The leaders added that they remained committed to “dialogue and diplomacy” to resolve the conflict.

However, the Quad countries did not directly refer to Russia’s actions, understood to be in deference to India’s divergent stand on the issue, or to the G-7’s statement yesterday that proposed a new set of sanctions and measures to restrict Russia’s economic activities. When asked at a briefing on the day’s meetings whether India’s increased purchases of Russian oil had come up in any of the conversations, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said, “No”.

Peace in maritime domain

Just as in previous meetings, the Quad statement did not refer directly to China, but made pointed references to upholding peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific “maritime domain”. “We strongly oppose destabilising or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo by force or coercion…. We express serious concern at the militarisation of disputed features, the dangerous use of Coastguard and maritime militia vessels, and efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation activities,” the statement said, indicating Chinese PLA-Navy’s actions in the South China Sea and East China sea.

When asked, Mr. Kwatra did not confirm or deny whether China’s aggressive actions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the military stand-off since April 2020 were discussed, but said the Quad leaders spoke of “mitigating” regional “challenges” .

“The leaders shared their strategic assessment of the developments in the region, including in the Indo-Pacific, and they also focused very heavily on how the Quad countries among themselves and with the other countries of Indo-Pacific could cooperate to pursue a positive vision of cooperation across various domains of engagement, but also in a manner that mitigates some of the challenges that they see in the region,” he said.

The joint statement also dealt with Quad concerns over North Korean missile launches, the coup in Myanmar, and the issue of terrorism. With specific references to the 2008 Mumbai attack and the 2016 Pathankot airbase attack, they committed to pursuing terrorist designations at the UN Security Council, and strengthening cooperation through a new Working Group on Counterterrorism.

Health initiative

The Quad leaders announced they would now pursue a broader “Quad Health Security Partnership” rather than the earlier Quad Vaccine Partnership for COVID-19 vaccines. The Quad vaccine initiative, which envisaged vaccines manufactured in India distributed in the Indo-Pacific with U.S., Japanese and Australian funding and networks, ended in December 2022, after running into trouble over Indian indemnity laws and a decline in demand. However, the Quad noted that all four countries had separately distributed a total of 800 million COVID-19 vaccines, including through the international COVAX partnership, and now would focus on building capacities in the region to respond rapidly to outbreaks of diseases with epidemic and pandemic potential.

Also Read | A year on, Quad initiative for 1 billion India-made vaccines runs into rough weather

They also announced a new undersea cable infrastructure partnership to build networks across the region, and noted progress on the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness to help curb illicit maritime activities, illegal fishing, and humanitarian disasters.

“There’s no doubt that the Indo-Pacific is an engine of growth and trade in the world, and we are agreed that its security and success are important for the whole world,” Mr. Modi said in his opening remarks.

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