India joins US-led move to elevate 'Quad' against China

Credits: @DrSJaishankar/Twitter

India has of late joined United States, Japan and Australia to raise the level of a four-nation consultation on Indo-Pacific to the level of Foreign Ministers – a move, which is sure to raise hackles in China.

Though the second “informal summit” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping is proposed to take place in Tamil Nadu next month, India went ahead with the US, Japan and Australia to elevate the 'quad' – the four-nation initiative to contain China's expansionist aspirations in in Indo-Pacific – to the level of Foreign Ministers. New Delhi's move was apparently aimed at sending out a message to China, which had of late been echoing Pakistan to oppose India's recent decisions to strip its Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state of “special status” and to reorganize the state into two Union Territories.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had a meeting with United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly in New York earlier this week.

They held a discussion on “collective efforts” by the four democratic nations to keep Indo-Pacific “free and open” – a euphemism often used to refer to moves to contain China.

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 contain communist China in Indo-Pacific.

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 sideline of the UNGA on Friday.

“Thank you #Quad Foreign Ministers @SecPompeo @moteging and @MarisePayne,” Jaishankar posted on Twitter, along with a picture of the meeting. But neither he, nor the Ministry of External Affairs, made public what was discussed or what External Affairs Minister said in the meeting.

 

 

“We had a wide-ranging discussion of our collective efforts to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific, but also touching on counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime security cooperation, development finance, and cybersecurity,” said Alice G Wells, acting US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs. She was briefing media-persons in New York after the meeting of the 'quad' foreign ministers. No joint statement was issued after the meeting though.

A senior official of the US State Department told journalists that the interests of all the four quad participating nations aligned quite well. “We (the US) have our Indo-Pacific strategy, the other three (India, Japan and Australia) have very similar and overlapping strategies that deal with their interests throughout the region,” she the official. The issues Pompeo, Jaishankar, Payne and Motegi discussed include info-sharing, counter-terrorism, maritime domain awareness and ways to deal with cyber-crime.

Despite joining US, Japan and Australia to relaunch the 'quad', India in 2018 called for an inclusive Indo-Pacific – obviously just to ensure that it does not appear overtly adversarial to China and derail the process to mend the bilateral ties, which had hit a new low over the 72-day-long military stand-off at Doklam Plateau in Bhutan in June-August, 2017. Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping had April 2018 and brought about a thaw in the India-China relations, which had hit a new low over the 72-day-long military stand-off at Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan in June-August, 2017.

Prime Minister and Chinese President had an “informal summit” at Wuhan in Central China in April 2018. The “informal summit” brought about a thaw in the India-China relations.

But Beijing's repeated critical statements on Modi Government's August 5 decisions on J&K struck a jarring note to the bonhomie that marked the relations between India and China over the past 16 months.

Beijing criticized New Delhi's decisions on Kashmir – not only to express solidarity with its “all-weather ally” Islamabad but also because the communist country perceived India's moves to “unilaterally” change changing its domestic law as the ones that undermined territorial sovereignty of China.

What had irked Beijing was Modi Government's reiteration that just as the entire J&K state had remained an integral part of India, the two new UTs too would include, not only India's territory under illegal occupation of Pakistan, but also areas Pakistan had illegally ceded to China in 1963 as well as Aksai China territory, which both India and China claim as their own.

China's expansionist aspirations in Indo-Pacific of late returned under focus after the communist country on August 13 re-deployed its survey vessel – Haiyang Dizhi – and several other ships of its coast guard near Vanguard Bank in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Vietnam, obviously to re-assert its claim on the disputed South China Sea.

India reacted, by joining France and the United States early this month to call for a free Indo-Pacific – tacitly opposing maritime aggression by the communist country in the region.

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