Quad countries to focus on maritime security

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The “Quad” countries, namely India, US, Japan and Australia, will hold their next meeting on the sidelines of the 13
thEast Asia Summit at Singapore in mid-November, with the group keen to step up maritime security and disaster relief initiatives as well as economic development projects in the critical Indo-Pacific region.

The US believes that the Quad, as one of the elements of its larger Indo-Pacific strategy for “a free, open and rules-based order” in face of an aggressive and expansionist China in the region, should eventually evolve into a ministerial-level dialogue imbued with a strong military dimension.

But Washington also recognises that New Delhi for now remains opposed to any militarisation of the Quad, which was revived after a decade as a joint secretary-level dialogue in November 2017, with its second meeting being held in June this year. India has also made it clear that the US should not “conflate” the Indo-Pacific with the Quad, stressing the centrality of Asean in the former.

“Quad is an opportunity for like-minded countries to share notes and collaborate on projects of mutual interest. All four countries share a vision of an open and free Indo-Pacific. Each is involved in development and economic projects as well as in promoting maritime domain awareness and maritime security,” senior US state department official Alice G Wells told
TOI.

“The Indo-Pacific strategy recognises the centrality of Asean and APAC (Asia-Pacific region). This kind of grouping (Quad) is not in any way an effort to bypass these critical institutional bulwarks in the Indo-Pacific,” she added.

While “not ruling out” a military dimension in the Quad “in the future”, she stressed the present focus was on economic development and maritime security to ensure “the unimpeded use” of international waterways and airspace in the region.

Senior US defence officials, in the Indo-Pacific Command at Honululu and elsewhere, were more direct in calling for a cooperative security framework. Blaming “closed and authoritarian” regimes like China for using “coercive tactics” and “trying to subvert international norms” in South China Sea and other areas, they said it would be “logical” to impart a military construct to the Quad. “We are not pushing it aggressively but see it as a natural progression,” said an official.

All four countries share a vision of an open and free Indo-Pacific. Each is involved in development and economic projects as well as in promoting maritime domain awareness and collaborate on projects of mutual interest. Each is involved in promoting maritime domain awareness and maritime security





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