Amid China's aggression, US, India discuss Quad meet

Amid China's aggression, Pompeo, Jaishankar discuss Quad meet

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his counterparts from the United States, Japan and Australia are likely to hold talks soon to give a fillip to the ‘Quad’ to counter China’s belligerence, not only along its disputed boundary with India but also across the Indo-Pacific region.

Jaishankar and his US counterpart, Mike Pompeo, had a phone call late at night on Thursday. They discussed scheduling the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the four members of the Quad.

They also discussed China’s aggressive moves to alter the status quo along its Line of Actual Control or de facto boundary with India as well in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

Jaishankar and Pompeo also had another video conference on Friday, when they were joined by Marise Payne, Kang Kyung-wha, Gabi Askenazi and Ernesto Araújo, Foreign Ministers of Australia, South Korea, Israel and Brazil, for a discussion on the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.     

The External Affairs Minister and the American Secretary of State reiterated the “strength” of the India-US relationship “to advance peace, prosperity, and security in the Indo-Pacific and around the globe”. They agreed to “continue close cooperation on a full range of regional and international issues and look forward to quadrilateral consultations and the India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue later this year”, according to a press release issued by the American State Department.

“A wide-ranging conversation yesterday night with @SecPompeo. Reviewed our bilateral cooperation including working of relevant mechanisms. Shared assessments on regional and global issues including South Asia, Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific & (and) beyond,” Jaishankar posted on Twitter. “Exchanged views on responding to the coronavirus challenge. Discussed meeting in the Quad format in the near future.”

India, US, Australia and Japan had first launched the 'Quad' in 2007, but the initiative had fizzled out very soon. The four nations, however, re-launched the 'Quad' in Manila in November 2017 – ostensibly to create a bulwark of democratic nations to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific area. The senior diplomats of the four nations had several meetings ever since the quad was re-launched. It was elevated to the level of Foreign Ministers when US Secretary of State hosted his counterparts from Japan, Australia and India on the side-line of the UNGA in September 2019.

China’s post-Covid-19 military aggression prompted India and the US to renew its focus on the Quad.

India of late quietly added a military heft to the Quad by inking an agreement on Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement (MLSA) with Australia. The agreement is intended to open up the military bases of India and Australia for each other’s army, navy and air forces. India is also likely to sign a similar agreement with Japan soon. It had already signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the US in August 2016. 

 Prime Ministers of Japan and Australia, Shinzo Abe and Scott Morrison, agreed to expand the military cooperation among the Quad nations to counter China’s expansionist moves in Indo-Pacific.