The leaders of the United States, Japan, India and Australia have launched a maritime initiative to combat illegal fishing and pledged to invest more than $50bn in developing infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific as part of their efforts to counter China’s growing influence in the region.
The pledges were announced on Tuesday after the four men met in the Japanese capital, Tokyo, for a second in-person summit of their Indo-Pacific Quad grouping.
India, which has close ties with Russia, is the only member that is yet to condemn Moscow’s war.
In a joint statement, US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australia’s new leader Anthony Albanese said the Quad’s latest measures are aimed at demonstrating that the group “is a force for good” and that it is “committed to bringing tangible benefits to the region” at a time of profound global challenges.
And while the statement did not mention China by name, the leaders said they “strongly oppose any coercive, provocative or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo” in the Indo-Pacific. These include “the militarization of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard vessels and maritime militia, and efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation activities” – all accusations that have been levied against China.
To address some of these concerns, the Quad said it was announcing a new maritime surveillance initiative – the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) – that it said will work with regional partners to respond to humanitarian and natural disasters and combat illegal fishing.
“IPMDA will support and work in consultation with Indo-Pacific nations and regional information fusion centers in the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands by providing technology and training to support enhanced, shared maritime domain awareness to promote stability and prosperity in our seas and oceans,” the statement said.
The leaders also committed to deepening cooperation on infrastructure, saying such investment is “critical to driving productivity and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region”. This includes addressing debt issues and extending more than $50bn in infrastructure assistance and investment in the Indo-Pacific over the next five years. They specifically pledged additional help for island nations in the Pacific, where China’s influence has grown in recent years
The Quad leaders also addressed the war in Ukraine, reaffirming their resolve to “uphold the international rules-based order where countries are free from all forms of military, economic and political coercion”. And while their statement did not mention Russia by name, it said the leaders had discussed the “tragic” conflict in Ukraine and underscored the “respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states”.
Biden, meanwhile, in his opening remarks at the summit, said he believed the importance of securing the Quad’s goals – a free, open, connected and secure Indo-Pacific – have only been heightened by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. “We are navigating a dark hour in our shared history,” said the US president. “The Russian brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe … This is more than just a European issue. It’s a global issue.”
He later addressed the conflict in a bilateral meeting with Modi. A readout of the talks by the White House said Biden “condemned Russia’s unjustifiable war against Ukraine”, adding that the two leaders committed to providing humanitarian assistance and discussed how to manage the disruptions caused by the conflict, including the rise in energy and food prices.
India’s government made no mention of Ukraine or Russia in its readout.
A spokesman for the Indian foreign ministry said Biden and Modi “discussed ways to strengthen cooperation in trade, investment, technology, defence” and that their meeting had “concluded with substantive outcomes adding depth and momentum to the bilateral partnership”.