Senior officials of Foreign Ministries meet virtually as part of UN high level week
Senior officials from the Foreign Ministries of “the Quad” group of countries — India, the U.S., Australia and Japan — met virtually on Friday, during the United Nations high level week, as part of their periodic consultations on the Indo-Pacific region.
Officials discussed “ongoing and proposed practical cooperation in the areas of connectivity and infrastructure development”, a Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) statement said.
The U.S. State Department spelt out the discussion on connectivity more. “Noting the importance of digital connectivity and secure networks, the officials discussed ways to promote the use of trusted vendors, particularly for fifth generation (5G) networks,” it said in a statement on the meeting.
In an effort to stop Chinese 5G giant Huawei from setting up shop networks in other countries, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has been promoting “clean telcos” — a list of companies considered by the U.S. administration to be free from security risks and the risk of surveillance by the Chinese government.
Other topics discussed by the Quad officials, as per the statements, included counter-terrorism, cyber and maritime security, and quality infrastructure in the region.
ASEAN centrality, inclusiveness
Both countries’ statements say the officials committed support to the concept of ASEAN-centrality in the Indo-Pacific and ASEAN’s leadership in the architecture of the region.
The U.S. statement says the officials “explored ways to work together in the Mekong sub-region, in the South China Sea, and across the Indo-Pacific to support international law, pluralism, regional stability, and post-pandemic recovery efforts”.
The MEA statement says the officials reiterated their readiness to work with ASEAN and all other countries towards realising “a common and promising vision for the Indo-Pacific”.
The U.S. statement describes collective efforts to advance “a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region”. The phrase normally used by Washington is “free and open Indo-Pacific”. India had, at least initially since the Quad was revived after a ten year hiatus in 2017, been hesitant for the Quad to be seen as a framework to exclude or contain China. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had articulated an inclusive vision for the Indo Pacific in 2018 at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore, when India-China relations were on a high relative to this year, when there have been tensions and clashes along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The MEA statement on the Thursday meeting, unlike the U.S. statement, does not use the word “Quad” in the text.
The officials indicated that there would be a Ministerial-level meeting of the Quad later this year, as per the MEA statement. There has been discussion on an in-person meeting of Ministers in New Delhi in October.
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