Hiroshima | The Quad leaders on Saturday mourned the "terrible and tragic" humanitarian consequences of the war in Ukraine and called for ending the war through dialogue and diplomacy while asserting that it must not be an "era of war", a formulation that echoed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's position on the conflict.
Modi, US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese, the leaders of the four Quad nations, discussed the situation in Ukraine along with other pressing global challenges at the annual summit of the grouping in Hiroshima.
The joint statement by the four leaders that was released at the end of the summit reflected a much stronger collective position of the Quad on the Ukraine conflict compared to the one issued after the Tokyo summit of the grouping in March last year.
The leaders highlighted the importance of international law, peaceful resolution of disputes and respect for principles of the UN Charter, including territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states and in that context, expressed "deep concern" over the raging war in Ukraine and mourned its "terrible and tragic humanitarian consequences".
"We recognise its serious impacts on the global economic system including on food, fuel and energy security and critical supply chains," the statement said. The leaders resolved to continue to render humanitarian assistance to Ukraine for its recovery.
"Conscious that ours must not be an era of war, we remain committed to dialogue and diplomacy. We support a comprehensive, just and lasting peace consistent with the UN Charter. In this context, we concur that the use, or threat of use, of nuclear weapons is serious and inadmissible," they said.
At a bilateral meeting with Russian President Putin on September 16 last year in the Uzbek city of Samarkand, Modi said, "Today's era is not of war" and nudged the Russian leader to end the conflict.
The formulation was hailed by many European leaders and it subsequently found mention in many diplomatic documents.
Saturday's joint statement appeared to reflect the evolution of India's position on the conflict.
In his address at the summit, Modi described the Indo-Pacific region as an "engine" of global trade, innovation and development and said its success and security are important for the whole world.
The prime minister emphasised the importance of consolidating Quad's constructive agenda and delivering tangible outcomes for the region. Modi also invited Quad leaders to India for the next summit of the grouping in 2024.
In the joint statement, the Quad leaders reaffirmed their steadfast commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific while strongly opposing "destabilising or unilateral actions" that seek to change the status quo by force or coercion.
Though the leaders did not directly name China, it was clear that the reference was directed at Beijing, which has been increasing its military muscle-flexing in the strategically important Indo-Pacific.
The Quad leaders also unveiled a 'Vision Statement' titled 'Enduring Partners for Indo-Pacific' expressing their resolve to act as a "force for good" to find common solutions for region-wide benefit.
At the summit, the Quad leaders unveiled a series of initiatives including in areas of clean energy supply chains, undersea cables and investments in strategic technologies.
In the maritime domain, the Quad leaders emphasised the importance of adherence to international law and the maintenance of freedom of navigation and overflight, in addressing challenges to the maritime rules-based order, including those in the East and South China seas.
"We express serious concern at the militarisation of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels, and efforts to disrupt other countries' offshore resource exploitation activities,' the statement said, in an oblique reference to Chinese activities.
The Quad leaders emphasised that disputes should be resolved peacefully and in accordance with international law, without threat or use of force.
The Quad also unequivocally condemned terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms including cross-border terrorism.
It said the coalition will work with its regional partners in a comprehensive and sustained manner to strengthen capability to prevent, detect and respond to threats posed by terrorism and violent extremism, consistent with international law.
"We are committed to working together to promote accountability for the perpetrators of such terrorist attacks. We reiterate our condemnation of terrorist attacks, including the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai and in Pathankot, and our commitment to pursuing designations, as appropriate, by the UN Security Council 1267 Sanctions Committee," the statement said.
"We will strengthen our cooperation through the new Working Group on Counterterrorism announced during the Quad Foreign Ministers' Meeting in March 2023," it said.
The leaders also announced the evolution of the Quad Vaccine Partnership into a broader Quad health security partnership. Through this partnership, the Quad will strengthen coordination and collaboration in support of health security in the Indo-Pacific.
They said the Quad International Standards Cooperation Network and the Quad Principles on Critical and Emerging Technology Standards were released that reflected "our support for industry-led, consensus-based multi-stakeholder approaches to the development of technology standards." "We welcome the launch of the private sector-led Quad Investors Network (QUIN), which aims to facilitate investments in strategic technologies, including clean energy, semiconductors, critical minerals, and quantum," the statement said.
The leaders also vowed to expand cooperation in the Indian Ocean region.
"This supports our regional partners in combating a wide range of illicit maritime activities, including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and responding to climate-related and humanitarian events," they said.
"We are committed to deepening engagement with regional partners to support maritime safety and security and uphold international law," they added. In the vision statement on the Indo-Pacific, the leaders vowed to work towards a peaceful and prosperous, stable and secure region.
"We seek a region in which all countries and peoples can exercise free choice on how they cooperate and trade based on partnership, equality and mutual respect," the vision statement said.
"We share the belief that engaging openly, transparently and constructively creates more opportunity, greater economic vitality and better understanding of shared challenges, to the benefit of all," it said.
"At a time of fundamental change, challenge, and opportunity in our region, we are determined to make a positive and lasting contribution to the resilience and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific by leveraging our resources and sharing our expertise," it added.
The Quad leaders also resolved to ensure that the principles that have underpinned peace and stability and stimulated decades of growth continue to apply for decades to come, including the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.