India on Thursday tacitly hit out at China for criticizing the Quad, with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar stating that opposition to the four-nation coalition was possibly a ‘unilateralist’ approach rooted in the desire to control the choices of other nations.
With the more-than-two-year-long stand-off between the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) still continuing, Jaishankar also said that the relations between the two neighbouring nations were going through “an extremely difficult phase”. He put the blame squarely on China, which amassed a large number of troops along its disputed boundary with India in eastern Ladakh in April-May 2020, resulting in the stand-off that took the ties between the two to a new low.
“If there are reservations (about the Quad) in any quarter, these stem from a desire to exercise a veto on the choices of others. And possibly a unilateralist opposition to collective and cooperative endeavours,” Jaishankar said, delivering a lecture at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok on Thursday.
Beijing has been slamming the Quad as a US-led move to contain China.
The External Affairs Minister’s comment was apparently intended to dismiss criticism of the Quad by China. It, however, could also be a move to send out a subtle message to Russia, which too had expressed reservation about the Quad and called it a ‘divisive’ and ‘exclusivist’ tool being used by the United States to implement its “devious policy” of engaging India against China as well as to undermine Russia’s close partnership with India.
The Quad is a coalition forged by India, Japan, Australia and the United States, originally launched in 2007 and revived in 2017, to build a bulwark of democracy against communist China’s hegemonic aspirations in the Indo-Pacific region. It was elevated to the level of leaders in March 2021.
In an apparent move to counter the US bid to step up maritime security cooperation within the Quad, Russia’s new Naval Doctrine recently approved by President Vladimir Putin envisaged establishment of logistics points in the Asia-Pacific region, with stepping up strategic cooperation with India being a priority in the Indian Ocean.
India’s strategic balancing came under stress after tension between Russia and the US escalated after the former Soviet Union nation launched its military offensives against Ukraine on February 24 this year.
“The Quad is the most prominent plurilateral platform that addresses contemporary challenges and opportunities in the Indo-Pacific,” the External Affairs Minister said. “The energies of the Quad are directed at a very broad range of activities. They range from maritime safety and security, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, cyber security, critical and emerging technologies and connectivity to education, health and even space cooperation,” he said in Bangkok on Thursday.
Jaishankar dismissed the criticism of Quad, even as Russia invited both India and China to take part in a military drill in multiple locations in the eastern region of the former Soviet Union nation from August 30 to September 5.
Tokyo objected to Moscow’s plan to hold the drill at Southern Kuril Islands or Northern Territories – an area claimed by both Japan and Russia.
India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had a meeting with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev in Moscow on Wednesday.
Jaishankar on Thursday said that the Quad’s role in the delivery of public goods could also be very significant and the entire Indo-Pacific region would benefit from its activities. He also noted the growing recognition of the importance in the international community.