The foreign ministers of the US, Japan, Australia and India met in the Quad format in the capital on Friday morning as part of their effort to remain engaged to be “fit for purpose for any challenges which are emerging or may emerge”, as secretary of state Antony Blinken put it.
The meeting, however, drew criticism from Russia and China, which saw in it an attempt to create an exclusive clique aimed at isolating Moscow and Beijing.
In the joint statement issued after the meeting, the four ministers said: “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.”
With the Quad always being seen by Beijing as a clique against it, the statement underscores that it will act as a “force for regional and global good” with a constructive agenda.
Stating that peace and security in the maritime domain underpin the development and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific, the joint statement iterates the importance of adherence to international law, as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to meet challenges to the maritime rulesbased order, including in the South and East China Seas.
“We strongly oppose any unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo or increase tensions in the area. We express serious concern at the militarisation of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard vessels and maritime militia, and efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation activities,” the statement said without naming China.
The situation in Ukraine also found a mention in the joint statement: “We continued to discuss our responses to the conflict in Ukraine and the immense human suffering it is causing, and concurred that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. We underscored the need for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine in accordance with international law, including the UN Charter. We emphasised that the rulesbased international order must respect sovereignty, territorial integrity, transparency and peaceful resolution of disputes.”
Responding to a question on the Quad meeting at the daily briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said: “China has stated our position on Quad on multiple occasions. We believe that state-to-state cooperation needs to be consistent with the trend of peace and development, rather than be about putting up exclusionary blocs. We hope certain countries can do more things that contribute to security and mutual trust between regional countries and that help to maintain regional peace and stability.”
Speaking at the Raisina Dialogue, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov brought up the Quad while responding to a question on how the growing Russia-China relationship would impact Moscow’s ties with New Delhi. “We never make friends against anybody. We have excellent relations with both. We are interested in these two nations to be friends. And we are trying to be helpful.”