The foreign ministers of Quad countries on Friday reaffirmed the grouping's commitment for a free and open Indo-Pacific and said it strongly supports the rule of law, sovereignty, territorial integrity and peaceful settlement of disputes, in comments seen as an oblique message to China.
After External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi and Australia's Penny Wong met, it was announced that a Quad working group on counter-terrorism would be established to explore measures to counter new and emerging forms of terrorism, radicalisation and violent extremism.
The ministers vowed to work closely to align and complement Quad's agenda with Japan's presidency of the G7, India's presidency of the G20 and the United States' APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) "host year" in 2023.
Following the meeting, the four ministers attended a session at the Raisina Dialogue and spoke largely about the convergence of interests of the Quad member nations.
"For us the future is so much in the Indo-Pacific. Our engagement throughout the region, both through the Quad and in other ways, is as comprehensive and as deep as any time I can remember," Blinken said.
While Blinken and Wong were in India to attend the G20 foreign ministers' meeting, Hayashi came to Delhi to participate in the Quad meeting.
In a joint statement after the Quad meeting, the ministers said the meeting reaffirmed the Quad's "steadfast" commitment to supporting a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is inclusive and resilient.
The Quad foreign ministers also "unequivocally" condemned terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms and denounced the use of terrorist proxies and financial or military support to terrorist organisations which could be used to launch or plan terrorist attacks, including transnational and cross-border strikes.
They reiterated their condemnation of terrorist attacks, including 26/11 Mumbai strikes, which claimed lives of citizens from all Quad countries, and Pathankot attacks.
"We strongly support the principles of freedom, rule of law, sovereignty and territorial integrity, peaceful settlement of disputes without resorting to threat or use of force and freedom of navigation and overflight, and oppose any unilateral attempt to change the status quo, all of which are essential to the peace, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and beyond," the statement said.
The foreign ministers said the Quad is acting as a "force for regional and global good", and it will be guided by the priorities of the Indo-Pacific region through its positive and constructive agenda.
"We are pleased to announce the establishment of the Quad working group on counter-terrorism, which will explore cooperation amongst the Quad, and with Indo-Pacific partners, to counter new and emerging forms of terrorism, radicalisation to violence and violent extremism," they said in the statement.
"We look forward to its first meeting in the United States in 2023 to continue our discussions on this global issue." The Quad foreign ministerial meeting came months ahead of the grouping's summit in Australia which is set to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with other leaders.
The statement said the Quad seeks to support the region through practical cooperation on contemporary challenges such as health security, climate change and the clean energy transition, critical and emerging technologies, infrastructure and connectivity.
It also talked about addressing the debt crisis through sustainable, transparent and fair lending and financing practices.
"We concur that the rules-based international order is anchored in international law, including the UN Charter, and the principles of sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity of all states," it said.
"We are committed to cooperate to address attempts to unilaterally subvert the UN and international system, in consultation with our partners and through multilateral and international platforms," it added.
The Quad foreign ministers said they are committed to working together with the regional and international partners to promote accountability for the perpetrators of terrorist attacks, including through designations by the UN Security Council's 1267 sanctions committee.
"In this regard, we express our concern at attempts to politicise the working of the UNSC Sanctions Regimes and call on all states to maintain the transparent, objective and evidence based working methods of UNSC Sanctions Committees," the statement said.
It said the ministers noted with deep concern that terrorism has become increasingly diffuse, aided by terrorists' adaptation to, and the use of emerging and evolving technologies such as unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and the internet.
Without making any direct reference to the Chinese assertiveness in East and South China Sea, the Quad foreign ministers referred to the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight and promotion of the safety and security of sea lines of communication.
"We look forward to continuing these discussions at the Quad maritime security working group meeting hosted by the United States in Washington DC in March 2023. In this context, we welcome the progress made under the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA)," it said.
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