Prime Minister Narendra Modi with U.S. President Joe Biden, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at Quad Summit, in Tokyo on May 24. ANI

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) member nations—India, US, Japan and Australia— will be more regularly and frequently sharing information on the possible security concerns in the Indo-Pacific maritime sphere so as to coordinate efforts in much better way to try and maintain the rule based global order in the region in what is a clear-cut strong message to China. As reported by The Sunday Guardian on 4 September, Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) of the Quad countries discussed the shared concerns over “China’s activities aimed at increasing influence in both the Indian Ocean Region and the Indo-Pacific.” The meeting, which took place in Delhi on 5-6 September, focused on the issues such as Sri Lanka’s crisis, Ukraine situation, Covid vaccines, and China’s aggressive agenda, sources told The Daily Guardian.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a tweet that the officials discussed regional and global developments, reaffirming their vision “for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific”. The meeting of the top Quad countries’ officials assumes significance as it has taken place ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s presence at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit to be held on 15-16 September in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. What is more important is that China’s President Xi Jinping will also be attending the SCO summit where the Chinese leader is likely to come face to face with PM Modi. However, there is no confirmation as yet on whether or not the two leaders will hold talks on the sidelines of the SCO summit. The Quad officers’ meeting has sent out a strong message to China before this upcoming summit which is a significant development, diplomats say.

The two-day interactions of the senior officials of the Quad countries stressed on the need for all the four member states to regularly exchange inputs and information on the security concerns in the Indo-Pacific, with Chinese belligerence in mind, sources said. Sources further said that a more robust system to coordinate efforts to ensure rule based, free and open Indo-Pacific will be worked out. The officials also discussed the Sri Lankan crisis resulting from financial distress. Chinese aggression in the island nation also figured when the meeting discussed the Colombo crisis.  The issue of China docking of its research and satellite tracking ship, the Yuan Wang 5, at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port cropped up in this context. Despite India and US’ appeal to the Sri Lankan government not to allow the Chinese “spy ship”, Colombo succumbed to Beijing’s pressure and allowed the vessel to dock. “Several examples like this highlighting China’s assertive agenda in the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region maritime spheres were discussed during the meeting,” sources said.  

The meeting also reviewed the projects agreed to by the leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the US during the Quad summit in Tokyo this year. The SOM also set the course for a Ministerial level meeting of the four countries due to be held in India next year.

The SOM was hosted by the MEA Joint Secretary (Americas) Vani Rao. The meeting was attended by delegations led by the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Donald Lu, Japan’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Policy Keiichi Ichikawa, and Australia’s Deputy Secretary of the geostrategic group, who oversees the Indo-Pacific strategy division in the Department of Foreign Affairs an Trade, Justin Hayhurst.