India to go ahead with 4-nation talks on Indo-Pacific

Speculations had risen that India might seek to avoid meet due to thaw in China relations

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China's President Xi Jinping attend the BRICS summit meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, July 27, 2018. Credit: Reuters/Mike Hutchings

India is likely to join United States, Japan and Australia for a four-nation consultation on the Indo-Pacific on the sidelines of the ASEAN and East Asia summits scheduled to take place in Singapore on Wednesday and Thursday.
 
Notwithstanding its détente with Beijing, New Delhi is unlikely to withdraw from the 'quad' – an informal four-nation bloc, which re-emerged in November 2017 comprising India, US, Japan and Australia, ostensibly to counter the hegemonic aspirations of China in the Indo-Pacific.
 
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the India-ASEAN summit and East Asia Summit in Singapore, India's senior diplomats are likely to join their counterparts from the US, Australia and Japan for a meeting of the “quad” on the sidelines of the multilateral meetings, sources told DH.
 
The proposed meeting among the diplomats of India, US, Japan and Australia in Singapore will focus on issues of “common interests in the Indo-Pacific” and signal the continuation of the 'quad' – the popular name for the consultation mechanism launched by the four nations in Manila in November 2017.
 
The diplomats of the four nations will discuss ways to pursue “shared objectives in the areas of connectivity and development; regional security, including counterterrorism and non-proliferation; humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as well as maritime cooperation”, sources in New Delhi said. They are likely to reaffirm support for “a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region” and “common commitment, based on shared values and principles, to promote a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific.”

The nations will also reaffirm the centrality of the ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) in the political and security architecture of Indo-Pacific to allay the apprehensions that the quad might undermine the 10-nation bloc in the region.
 
China has been accused by the US, Japan and other nations of undermining the “rules-based order” in the Indo-Pacific. The communist country's territorial disputes with its maritime neighbours in the East and the South China Sea and its reluctance to resolve disputes in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea has often prompted the other nations to criticise it for not adhering to international laws.
 
India's complex relations with China hit a new low last year over the 72-day long military face-off at Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan. The two neighbours, however, have been trying to get relations back on track since early this year – with a series of high-level engagements, including an “informal summit” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Wuhan in China in April and two meetings on the sidelines of multilateral conclaves in Qingdao of the East Asian nation in June as well as in Johannesburg in South Africa in July. Modi and Xi are likely to meet again on the sidelines of the G-20 summit at Buenos Aires in Argentina later this month.
 
Speculations had risen that India might seek to avoid – at least for some time – the appearance of closing ranks with Australia, Japan and the US to counter China in the Indo-Pacific. New Delhi, however, apparently decided to maintain a balance and send its diplomats to attend the 'quad' meeting in Singapore.

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India to go ahead with 4-nation talks on Indo-Pacific

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