Free Indo-Pacific not against China: U.S. Admiral

Quad countries evolving a common maritime awareness picture

Updated - January 09, 2019 09:58 pm IST

Published - January 09, 2019 09:55 pm IST - New Delhi

 Admiral Philip S. Davidson. File

Admiral Philip S. Davidson. File

Acknowledging the rapid expansion of the Chinese Navy in recent years, especially in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), the four countries of the Quad on Wednesday stressed on improving interoperability and evolving a “common maritime awareness picture” while not attributing any military angle to the grouping which is seen as a counter to China’s expansion.

“Free and open Indo-pacific is not a containment strategy for China... We are not asking people to choose between U.S. and China,” Admiral Philip Davidson, Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said during a discussion at the Raisina Dialogue. Navy Chiefs and top Navy officers of India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. were present along with the Australian Army Chief.

Referring to the recent steps between India and the U.S. in expanding cooperation, including the signing of the second foundational agreement, Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said, “We have a common maritime awareness picture.”

Indian Navy recently inaugurated an Information Fusion Centre — Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) where friendly countries in the region will have liaison officers for information sharing. All Quad countries as well as France have expressed interest in posting a liaison officer.

The U.S. has been conducting Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea, most of which is claimed by China. “I welcome operations, exercises in the SCS and freedom of navigation operations from any other nation, welcome India,” Admiral Davidson stated.

In addition to the patrols, Adm Davidson said that it is the responsibility of all our nations here to help the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) nations in their discussions for a Code of Conduct with China in the SCS.

The four quad countries represent the open inclusive rule based order while respecting international agreements, Admiral Lanba said while ruling out a military angle to the grouping. Asked is it does not have a military angle, he replied, “Yes, at the moment it doesn’t.”

The Quad which was initially formed in 2007 was quickly abandoned and was again revived in 2017.

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