Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | Quad meet: differences between India and others

Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | Quad meet: differences between India and others

This week on Worldview, we discuss the Quad announcements and the differences over how to tackle Russia, China, Myanmar

The Foreign Ministers of India, Japan and United States met in Australia for the Quad ministerial, which is preparing the way for a meeting between Prime Minister Modi, U.S. President Biden, Australian PM Morrison, hosted by Japanese PM Kishida in Tokyo in the next few months.  

Main areas of Quad announcements:

  • Vaccine partnership: Plans have been made to produce one billion vaccines for the Indo-Pacific region- funded by U.S., produced in India and distributed through Japanese and Australian network. 
  • Quad partners have collectively pledged to donate more than 1.3 billion vaccine doses globally, already distributed more than 500 million, and are producing 1 billion vaccines at Hyderabad’s Biological E. 
  • Maritime domain awareness and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR). 
  • Critical and emerging Technology: Building a safe and transparent 5G network. 
  • Climate change- with a plan to hold a  Indo-Pacific Clean Energy Supply Chain Forum in mid-2022. 
  • Counter terrorism, maritime security and cybersecurity initiatives: In particular, the Quad said it “denounced the use of terrorist proxies for cross-border terrorism and urge countries to work together to eliminate terrorist safe havens; disrupt terrorist networks and the infrastructure and financial channels which sustain them; and halt cross-border movement of terrorists,condemnation of terrorist attacks in India, including 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot attacks, and added a reference to UNSC Resolution 2593 (2021) that Afghan territory should not be used to threaten or attack any country, shelter or train terrorists, or plan or finance terrorist acts, with such ungoverned spaces being a direct threat to the safety and security of the Indo-Pacific.” 

While Quad members have reiterated that the grouping is only an economic coalition of like-minded Indo-Pacific democracies who are involved in ensuring a Free Open and Inclusive Indo-Pacific and a Rules based International order, they also had discussions on specific global development, and it is here where India appeared to have deep divergences from the other three members: 

  1. Russia-NATO tensions over Ukraine and a build-up of Russian troops: While the U.S. and allies have been very critical of Russia, India has pushed for a diplomatic outcome, and as we discussed in the previous WV, was even thanked by Russia for abstaining at a UNSC vote. 
  2. China-US tensions on a range of issues from Taiwan and the South China Seas, to human rights issues in Xinjiang and Hong Kong to economic issues. While India has joined previous Quad statements that stress on a rules based international order, aimed at China, there have been no real direct references to China, and India has not allowed any public references to discussing its own two-year old tensions with China at the LAC. Significantly, India did not join Western calls for a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics made in December last year over the issue of Human rights, but did eventually boycott the ceremonies over China’s decision to use a Galwan commander in its lineup of Olympic torchbearers 
  3. Sanctions against the Myanmar junta which has completed more than a year in power it grabbed from the democratic government last February. While US, Japan and Australia spoke quite strongly about the need for sanctions and holding the Myanmar military to account, EAM Jaishankar said while India is disappointed by the turn of events in Myanmar, its policies are guided by its own concerns over insurgency, covid, humanitarian disasters etc, adding firmly that India does not recognise “national sanctions”, as opposed to UN sanctions. 
  4. Tensions over North Korea, which fired seven test missiles in the month of January, the highest ever since 2017, and where leader Kim Jong Un has threatened a return to nuclear missile and ICBM tests as well-. Again here, India, which is one of the few countries with an embassy in Pyongyang, is reticent on using strong language, where Japan and Australia are keen to make this a key area for quad cooperation in the Indo pacific, and US Secretary of State Blinken is hosting a trilateral with Japan and South Korea to discuss North Korea’s intentions. 
  5. The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, where six months after taking over Kabul, the Taliban is no closer to building an inclusive government, nor giving in to demands to allow girls back into school. While all Quad countries and other groupings have agreed that these must be done, India remains an outlier when it comes to engaging the Taliban. Later this month, the US is expected to join a meeting of the Troika plus: US, Russia, China and Pakistan, set to be held in Kabul.  

What seems clear is that the Quad remains strong on its Indo-Pacific commitments, but the worldviews of the 4 Quad partners is far from the same. In addition what is playing out were other big meetings this month, including: 

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing where they declared there would be “no limits” to their partnership. 
  • Central Asian leaders who also went to Beijing for the Olympics opening and reaffirmed a commitment to the “One China” policy.
  •  Pakistan PM Khan who visited Beijing, met with Mr. Xi and signed a number of agreements and issued a 33 para joint statement, and will soon visit Moscow for a rare Pakistan-Russia bilateral. 

As a result India is keen not just to keep its independence on international developments, but not be seen as working only with one group of allies- the US, EU, NATO, Japan, Australia. India remains in the SCO, is standing by its traditional ties with Russia, even remains a part of the Russia-India-China trilateral- where Moscow has suggested that PM Modi, President Putin could meet with President Xi in the months ahead.

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