Published On: Thu, Nov 15th, 2018

Quad discusses cooperation in Indo-Pacific, regional issues

New Delhi: Officials of the quad, revived last year comprising India, the US, Japan, and Australia that seeks to work for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, met in Singapore on Thursday on the sidelines of this year’s East Asia Summit.

The quad officials also exchanged views on recent developments in the regional situation

The four sides held consultations on regional and global issues of common interest, including the situation in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

“The discussions focused on cooperation in areas such as connectivity, sustainable development, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation and maritime and cyber security, with a view to promoting peace, stability and prosperity in an increasingly inter-connected Indo-Pacific region that the four countries share with each other and with other partners,” a statement issued by the External Affairs Ministry here said.

Reflecting India’s view, the participants reaffirmed the centrality of the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) regional bloc as the cornerstone of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

In his keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a Track I annual inter-governmental security forum organised by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) think tank in Singapore in June, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India does not see the Indo-Pacific region as a strategy or as a club of limited members.

“It includes all nations in this geography as also others beyond who have a stake in it. Southeast Asia is at its centre. And, Asean has been and will be central to its future,” Modi said.

The Indo-Pacific region extends from the eastern coast of Japan to the eastern coast of Africa.

According to Thursday’s ministry statement, the four sides “agreed to partner with other countries and forums in the region to promote a free, open, rules-based and inclusive order in the Indo-Pacific that fosters trust and confidence”.

“They committed to strengthening connectivity and quality infrastructure based on sovereignty, equality and territorial integrity of all nations, as well as transparency, economic viability and financial responsibility,” it said.

The meeting assumes significance given China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific and its belligerence in the South China Sea region.

The quad officials also exchanged views on recent developments in the regional situation.

Separate statements issued by the US, Japan and Australia on the quad’s meeting said that this included the situation in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Though the Indian statement did not mention this, it assumes significance given New Delhi’s key interests in both these South Asian neighbours that are going through or went through political turmoil.

In Sri Lanka, lawmakers scuffled in Parliament on Thursday, a day after a no-confidence motion was passed against now disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, in the latest escalation of the political crisis that has left the country without an agreed Prime Minister or Cabinet.

The no-trust motion was passed on Wednesday, the first session of the Sri Lankan Parliament since the beginning of a constitutional crisis on October 26 when President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe and replaced him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister.

However, Sirisena late on Wednesday refused to accept the no-confidence vote, leaving a power vacuum.

Meanwhile, the Maldives will see a change in leadership when President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will be sworn in on November 17.

Solih, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s candidate, emerged victorious over incumbent Abdulla Yameen in the presidential election in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation.

The Maldives’ relations with India became strained during Yameen’s rule, with tensions peaking after New Delhi criticised Male’s refusal to enforce a Supreme Court ruling quashing the convictions of nine opposition figures, among them former President Mohamed Nasheed.

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