The informal Quad grouping in the strategically vital Indo-Pacific region comprising Australia, India, Japan and the US fills a “very important gap” that has emerged in contemporary times and New Delhi has clarity on its membership in it, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said.
The Quad aims at strengthening a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific amidst China”s aggressive actions in the region. “Quad today fills a very important gap that has emerged in contemporary times, where there are global or regional requirements, which cannot be filled by a single country. It cannot even be filled by one bilateral relationship, and which is not being addressed at the multilateral level,” he told a group of Indian journalists as he concluded most of his meetings here on Friday.
Jaishankar, who is on an official trip to the US, is the first Indian Cabinet minister to visit the country since Joe Biden became the President on January 20. He asserted that India has clarity on its membership to Quad, adding that he had been personally involved with its progress over the past several years, including when he was India’s foreign secretary.
“We are members of Quad. When we are members of anything, we are very keen about it, otherwise, we won”t be its members. We have clarity on the Quad,” Jaishankar underlined. Quad was one of the key issues of discussion between Jaishankar and top officials of the Biden administration, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
“Quad used to (and) still does discuss maritime security and connectivity, in recent years. It has started to discuss technology issues, supply chain issues and vaccine production. There are marine, sort of safety quality issues. So, there are a whole set of issues,” the minister noted. Without naming any country, Jaishankar said there are “many, many concerns” which have to be addressed by somebody.
“Big countries can do a large portion of it. Big relationships can add to it. But at the end of the day, most things work better if a group of countries sit together and say, okay, we all have similar positions and similar interests, and why don”t we all sit and address those sets of issues. “So that is how we see Quad. Quad is an expression of the convergence of interests of many countries. It is in many ways a reflection of the contemporary nature of the world, where it is not a set of, you know…., at some stage, we have to put the Cold War behind us. It is only those who are stuck in the Cold War who cannot understand Quad,” he added.
Initiated in 2007, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad is an informal grouping of the US, India, Australia and Japan. The Quad member countries have resolved to uphold a rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific amid growing Chinese assertiveness in the region. China, which is flexing its military muscles in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
The country claims almost all of the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea as its sovereign territory. China has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region. China has been building military bases on artificial islands in the region also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Both maritime areas in the South and East China seas are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources and are also vital to global trade. China has vehemently opposed the formation of the Quad with a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman emphasising in March that exchanges and cooperation between countries should help expand mutual understanding and trust, instead of targeting or harming the interests of third parties.
The first summit of the Quad leaders was hosted by US President Joe Biden on March 12 and the virtual meeting was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. The four Quad leaders have vowed to strive for an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion, sending a clear message to China against its aggressive actions in the region.