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NEW DELHI: India, US, Japan and Australia gave a thumbs up to a “free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region” after the first officials’ meeting on the “Indo-Pacific” on the sidelines of the Asean summit in Manila on Sunday, resurrecting the “quadrilateral” from the ashes.
The ‘quad’ meeting came even as PM Modi and US President Trump met each other for a few minutes as they arrived for the gala dinner hosted by the Philippines. The two leaders will have a bilateral meeting on Monday afternoon. PM Modi was also seen chatting with Dmitry Medvedev, Russian PM, Justin Trudeau of Canada and Li Keqiang of China, Najib Razak of Malaysia among others. In pictures, PM Modi is seen in animated conversation with other world leaders.
At the quadrilateral meeting, India was represented by Pranay Verma, joint secretary in charge of east Asia and Vinay Kumar, joint secretary (south). The US was represented by Alice Wells while Japan sent Satoshi Suzuki, deputy minister for foreign policy for the dialogue.
As a first effort, sources said, the exercise was quite successful. The MEA spokesperson said, “The discussions focused on cooperation based on their converging vision and values for promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in an increasingly inter-connected region that they share with each other and with other partners.”
Speaking on anonymity, another member of the quadrilateral in Manila described the discussions as “constructive.” The top items at the dialogue included ways of maintaining the “rules based order” in the Indo-Pacific theatre, a review of the happenings in Indo-Pacific and North Korea.
MEA spokesperson, expounding a little more on the talks said, “They agreed that a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large. The officials also exchanged views on addressing common challenges of terrorism and proliferation linkages impacting the region as well as on enhancing connectivity.”
On Monday, after the opening ceremony, PM Modi is scheduled to visit the well-known rice research institute, which has been instrumental in helping India evolve its own rice varieties. In the afternoon, he will have a bilateral summit with Trump, to be followed by a meeting with Duterte, president of Philippines.
India has managed to work productively with the Trump administration thus far — its South Asia strategy and Asia-Pacific strategy closely hews to the Indian point of view. Indian sources say that for the present, the US and India are on the “same page”when it comes to both Afghanistan and China.Trump has openly re-named the Asia-Pacific to become the new Indo-Pacific, a sign that the US would put India front and centre in its Asia strategy. This has several connotations — including cooperative security strategies in the Indian Ocean and western Pacific. For the first time earlier this week, an Indian warship in the East China Sea was refueled by a US ship, one of the first occasions of the LEMOA being put into action.
While all four members deny any connection of the quadrilateral to China, there is absolutely no doubt that the precipituous rise in Chinese power has led these four countries to balance that rise and perhaps contest the new hegemony.