The Australian government said Quad emphasised it was vital for states to ease tensions and not exacerbate long-standing disputes during a pandemic. The Quad also discussed developments in South China Sea and, according to Australia, also said states cannot assert maritime claims inconsistent with international law, particularly UNCLOS.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo called for collaboration against Chinese Communist Party’s “exploitation, corruption, and coercion” as witnessed, among other places, in “the Himalayas”. Jaishankar was more discreet in his remarks as he stated that the objective was to advance the security and the economic interests of all countries having legitimate and vital interests in the region.
While citing examples of Chinese adventurism, Pompeo also brought up the situation in the South China Sea, East China Sea, the Mekong and the Taiwan Straits, apart from mentioning the Himalayas as he alluded to the India-China LAC standoff. Japanese foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi confirmed in a statement later that the ministers exchanged views on the situation in South China Sea where China is accused of using military power to intimidate other claimants of disputed waters.
“We remain committed to upholding the rules-based international order, underpinned by the rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation in the international seas, respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty and peaceful resolution of disputes,” said Jaishankar in his opening remarks.
According to the Indian readout, Jaishankar, Pompeo, Motegi and their Australian counterpart Marise Payne exchanged views about regional issues of mutual interest, and issues related to connectivity; humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; maritime safety and security; health security, and counter terrorism. Jaishankar said it was a matter of satisfaction that the Indo-Pacific concept had gained “increasingly wider acceptance”.
The ministers reiterated their firm support to ASEAN centrality and, while appreciating the value of these minister-level consultations, agreed to hold them regularly. The third meeting is likely to be held next year. China had only last week slammed the announcement about the second Quad ministerial saying “no one should seek an exclusive clique”. According to Japan, the 4 countries also agreed to expand cooperation to other countries.
The US also sought to corner China over Covid-19 with Pompeo saying that the crisis was made infinitely worse by the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup. “The regime’s authoritarian nature led its leaders to lock up and silence the very brave Chinese citizens who were raising the alarm,” he said.
The Indian government said in a statement that the foreign ministers called for a coordinated response to the challenges including financial problems emanating from the pandemic, the need to share best practices to combat Covid-19, increasing the resilience of supply chains and and enhancing access to affordable vaccines, medicines and medical equipment.
“You are all aware that India assumes membership of the UN Security Council next year. We look forward to seeking collective solutions to global challenges,including global recovery from the pandemic and reform of multilateral institutions,” said Jaishankar.
The US also called for promoting transparency and countering disinformation in the fight against Covid-19.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a profound transformation globally. The events of this year have clearly demonstrated how imperative it is for likeminded countries to coordinate responses to the various challenges that the pandemic has brought to the fore,” said Jaishankar.
Watch EAM Jaishankar attends Quad ministerial meeting in Tokyo