Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 19
Senior officials from the Quad countries have discussed practical ways to cooperate on countering disinformation, an area that is part of a renewed focus by the NATO as well.
The read-outs from foreign offices of the four participating countries suggested that discussions have started to cover a wider range of topics to ensure a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.
These include critical minerals, the Mekong countries, North Korea and the East China Sea. The Quad is also discussing joint disaster relief exercises and coordination in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
During their virtual meeting on Friday, diplomats from India, the US, Australia and Japan —who call themselves the Quad — also talked about strengthening supply chain resiliency and to coordinate efforts to support countries “vulnerable to malign and coercive economic actions” in the Indo-Pacific region, said a US State Department readout of the interaction.
Recently, NATO had stepped up its approach to countering disinformation.
The headline focus is on disinformation about COVID-19 but the targets are Russia and China.
After devoting space to counter Russia, NATO spoke of China’s ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomacy and the need to counter its positioning as a responsible global leader with a superior governance model.
The NATO also aims to counter non-state actors who have recruited followers during the pandemic or carried out attacks with the ISIS newsletter claiming that acts of terror make the jihadis immune to OVID-19.
The Indian readout outlined cooperation in two broad subsets: connectivity and infrastructure development, and security issues (counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, maritime security, humanitarian and disaster relief) to promote peace, security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
The MEA made it a point to underline that Vietnam was the current chair of the ASEAN, with which Quad would like to work in tandem.
The Australian readout, like that of the US State Department, also spoke of the Quad considering joint activity in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), and coordinating efforts on COVID-19 response and vaccines and expanding coordination in multilateral forums, including the UN and related organisations.
Canberra said strategic pressures in the region were intensifying and the Quad officials shared strategic assessments and “respective visions” for a region in which sovereign states engage each other on the basis of rules, norms and international law.
It also spoke of the Quad partners focusing on strengthening the resilience of regional supply chains, countering disinformation, and promoting quality infrastructure investment.
One significant addition was the mention of “Mekong sub-region”, an area seen so far as a contest between China and the US-Japan compact.
Australia said besides the HADR, the Quad is also coordinating on maritime security, cyber and critical technology, critical minerals and counter-terrorism.
The read-out by the Japanese Foreign Ministry mentioned six areas of cooperation — quality infrastructure, maritime security, counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, HADR, and education and human resource development. It also mentioned regional issues such as North Korea and the East China Sea and the South China Sea.
The participants were Yamada Shigeo (Deputy Minister for Foreign Policy) and Endo Kazuya (Deputy Director-General, Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs) from Japan; Justin Hayhurst, (Deputy Secretary, Indo-Pacific Group) and Lauren Bain (Assistant Secretary, ASEAN and Regional Architecture) from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Vani Rao (Joint Secretary, Americas) and Naveen Srivastava (Joint Secretary, East Asia), from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs; and David Stilwell (Assistant Secretary of State, East Asian and Pacific Affairs) and Dean Thompson, (Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, South and Central Asian Affairs, form the US Department of State.