Quad meet focuses on Indo-Pacific cooperation

Differences emerge over stand on Russia, Myanmar.

Updated - February 12, 2022 07:08 am IST

Published - February 11, 2022 04:43 pm IST - Melbourne

Left to right; U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, India's Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar, and Foreign Minister of Japan Yoshimasa Hayashi participate in the Quad foreign ministers' press conference in Melbourne, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.

Left to right; U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, India's Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar, and Foreign Minister of Japan Yoshimasa Hayashi participate in the Quad foreign ministers' press conference in Melbourne, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.

Calling for justice for the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai (2008) and the Pathankot airbase attack (2016) for the first time since the group was formed, Foreign Ministers of the Australia-India-Japan said that the Quad is already cooperating on sharing intelligence on threats in the Indo-Pacific region.

The group of ministers, who held their fourth Quad ministerial meeting in Melbourne on Friday also resolved to speed up delivery of more than a billion Covid vaccines to be manufactured in India, to hold a special meet on climate change this year, and step efforts to ensure maritime security in the region. They announced plans for a Quad summit including PM Modi, U.S. President Biden and Australian PM Morrison to be hosted by Japan’s PM Kishida in Tokyo in the “first half of 2022”.


 “We call on all countries to ensure that territory under their control is not used to launch terror attacks and to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of such attacks,” said a joint statement issued at the end of talks between the Foreign ministers. “We reiterate our condemnation of terrorist attacks in India, including 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot attacks,” it added, indicating two attacks linked to the Lashkar e Toiba and Jaish e Mohammad in Pakistan.

The statement also made a veiled reference to China’s actions in the South and East China seas, reaffirming a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, “in which states strive to protect the interests of their people, free from coercion.”

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson called the Quad mechanism “only a tool to contain China.” “This is a deliberate move to stoke confrontation and undermine international solidarity and cooperation,” spokesperson Zhao Lijan said in Beijing, calling on Quad countries to “abandon the outdated cold war mentality.”


While the grouping committed to stronger cooperation on Indo-Pacific initiatives, divisions appeared in their stand on global developments like Russia-NATO tensions over Ukraine and sanctions against Myanmar’s military, as External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar expressed an independent line during a press conference held after the meeting.

“Where we are concerned, we don’t follow a policy of national sanctions,” Mr. Jaishankar said, pointing out that India is “troubled” by the situation in Myanmar post-coup, but its thinking is guided by concerns over cross border insurgencies, Covid infections, and concerns of a humanitarian situation that could arise from food shortages when asked about fresh US sanctions being placed on Myanmar.

In contrast, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has backed the sanctions, pushed for countries to stop arms trade with the Myanmar military. The joint statement called for a return to democracy in Myanmar, and also condemned North Korea’s recent ballistic missile tests.

Foreign Ministers of Australia, Japan and U.S. also took a sharp line on the build up of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine in recent weeks, where Mr. Blinken warned that “an invasion [by Russian troops] could begin at any time”. Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne expressed “deep concern” about Russian “aggression”, while Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa raised tensions over Ukraine as well. However Mr. Jaishankar did not speak about the issue, nor did the Russia-Ukraine situation find any mention in the joint statement. When asked by Australian journalists about India’s stand, Mr. Jaishankar said that the Quad meeting was “focused on the Indo-Pacific.” “So I think you should figure out the geography there, and where we stand,” he added.

Vaccines initiative

The joint statement issued included a renewed commitment to the “flagship” Quad Vaccine initiative to deliver at least one billion vaccines produced at Hyderabad’s Biological E facility by the end of 2022 to Indo-Pacific countries, and to a pledge to donate 1.3 billion vaccine doses globally. It also recorded progress on the other fields for cooperation identified during the Quad summit last year, including climate change, critical and emerging technologies, counter-terrorism, infrastructure, humanitarian-assistance and disaster-relief (HADR) and maritime domain awareness.

Bilateral meetings

After the Quad meeting, Mr. Jaishankar also held separate bilateral meetings with Mr. Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa. Mr. Jaishankar is due to meet Mr. Blinken in Washington for a “2+2” along with India-US defence ministers, for a meeting that has been delayed since November.

In talks with Mr. Yoshimasa, Mr. Jaishankar also hoped to welcome the Japanese PM Kishida for a visit to India, that has been delayed since former PM Shinzo Abe put off his trip in December 2019, and the two ministers agreed to hold the next round of the India-Japan 2+2 soon.

All the Quad ministers called on Australian PM Scott Morrison, who said the Quad must ensure regional countries “can enjoy their sovereignty, and not be coerced”.

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