A day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves for the US to attend the first in-person Quad leaders’ summit and meet US President Joe Biden, India in its first reaction to the Australia-UK-US (widely referred to as AUKUS) deal said the two are “not groupings of a similar nature” and since India is not a party to AUKUS, it is neither relevant nor will it have any impact on the Quad.
This was spelt out by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, while responding to questions on the possible impact of the AUKUS on the Quad. He sought to make it clear that while AUKUS is a “security alliance”, Quad is a “plurilateral grouping of like-minded countries that have a shared vision of their attributes and values”.
Last week, the US, UK and Australia signed a new trilateral security alliance for the Indo-Pacific in an attempt to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the region. The pact, termed AUKUS, is expected to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines in a bid to counter China’s growing power in the strategically vital region. France, which lost out on a USD 65 billion submarine deal with Australia and had not been notified about the AUKUS alliance, reacted angrily and called it a “stab in the back”.
Shringla’s comments come at a time when France’s anger and disappointment over the AUKUS deal has raised questions on the unity among “like-minded countries” over the Indo-Pacific strategy.
“Quad and the AUKUS are not groupings of a similar nature…Quad is a plurilateral grouping – a group of countries that have a shared vision of their attributes and values. They also have a shared vision of the Indo-Pacific region as a free, open, transparent, inclusive region. The Quad has adopted a positive, proactive agenda with a wide range, and varied array, of initiatives at the global level to address some of the issues of the day. This includes dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, including the supply of vaccines to the Indo Pacific region. It includes working on new and emerging technologies, issues like climate change, infrastructure, maritime security, education, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. There’s a wide array of initiatives that the Quad has undertaken, which is designed to cater to the requirements of the Indo-Pacific region,” said Shringla.
“On the other hand, AUKUS is a security alliance between three countries. We are not party to this alliance. From our perspective, this is neither relevant to the Quad, nor will it have any impact on its function,” he said.
The French government’s statement said they reaffirmed their shared commitment to act jointly in an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific, including in the framework of the Europe-India relationship and European initiatives in the Indo-Pacific. “This approach aims to promote regional stability and the rule of law, while precluding any form of hegemony”, it said, with an oblique reference to Beijing.
The two leaders also discussed regional issues, including recent developments in Afghanistan. In this context, the MEA statement said they “shared their concerns about the possible spread of terrorism, narcotics, illicit weapons and human trafficking, as well as the need to ensure human rights, rights of women and minorities.”
The French statement said the two leaders expressed “grave concerns” about the situation in Afghanistan. “The authorities in power must cut their ties with international terrorism, allow humanitarian organisations to operate throughout the country and respect the fundamental rights of Afghan women and men. Evacuation operations should continue unhindered,” it said.
Shringla, in his briefing, said the Afghanistan issue was also on the agenda of the Quad and bilateral meetings, along with terrorism. This will be the first meeting since the Taliban captured power in Afghanistan in mid-August.
During their meeting on September 23, Shringla said, the two leaders will review the “robust and multifaceted” India-US bilateral relationship. “They will also discuss how the comprehensive strategic global partnership between our two countries can be enriched further.
Besides attending the Quad summit on September 24, hosted by Biden and attended by Australian PM Scott Morrison and Japan’s outgoing PM Yoshihide Suga, Modi will also have bilateral meetings with all three leaders.
Source: The Indian Express