QUAD Stays Focused on Indo Pacific, Signals China


Image courtesy US Embassy and Consulates in India

Despite crisis in Europe and concerns expressed by the United States on Russian Special Military Operations in Ukraine which the West has proclaimed as War, QUAD Forum continues to focus on the Indo Pacific.


This was evident during the virtual, “Call,” of QUAD leaders on March 03.


Indian Prime Minister talked with US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida


QUAD leaders virtual Call comes at a time when the Russia Ukraine war is in full swing.


There were expectations that QUAD may make a statement critical of Russia and developments in Europe, but the group continues to stay focused on the Indo Pacific.


This was to signal China that despite US engagement in Europe, there will be no dilution of engagement in the Indo Pacific and commitment to strategic partners.


India is the only member of Quad that has refrained from criticizing Russia’s actions in Ukraine, which is as per defence and strategic ties with Moscow.


In recent statements at the UN, however, it has called for respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states in the context of the developments in Ukraine.


The Joint Readout of QUAD leaders Call highlights, that “Leaders – Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan, and President Joe Biden of the United States – convened to reaffirm their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, in which the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states is respected and countries are free from military, economic, and political coercion”.


“They reaffirmed their dedication to the Quad as a mechanism to promote regional stability and prosperity,” the Release added.


Ukraine had come up for discussion during the Call. However, there was no mention of Russia instead, “Quad leaders discussed the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and assessed its broader implications”.


QUAD has agreed, “to provide a new humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mechanism which will enable the Quad to meet future humanitarian challenges in the Indo-Pacific and provide a channel for communication as they each address and respond to the crisis in Ukraine”.


In a separate press release, it was stated that the “Prime Minister underlined that the Quad must remain focused on its core objective of promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region”. He also reiterated, “importance of adhering to the UN Charter, international law and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity”.


While developments in Ukraine were discussed, Prime Minister emphasized the need for dialogue and diplomacy.


Prime Minister also “called for concrete and practical forms of cooperation within the Quad, in areas like Humanitarian and Disaster Relief, debt sustainability, supply chains, clean energy, connectivity, and capacity-building”.


A day prior to the QUAD leaders Call, Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi spoke to the

Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 02. The Ministry of External Affairs press release said, that “[On March 02] Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi spoke on phone with His Excellency Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation. The leaders reviewed the situation in Ukraine, especially in the city of Kharkiv where many Indian students are stuck. They discussed the safe evacuation of the Indian nationals from the conflict areas”.


This was the second phone conversation between the two leaders since Putin ordered the special military operation in support of the breakaway Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk on February 24 and reflected India’s urgent efforts to pull out its nationals from conflict zones in eastern Ukraine following the death of an Indian student in Kharkiv.

India separately called in the envoys of Ukraine and Russia twice to demand safe passage for all Indians stranded in conflict zones in eastern Ukraine.


Conclusion


Given the differences of approach by India and other members of the QUAD – Australia, Japan and the United States, the QUAD leaders Calls assumes importance. While in the pre-Call deliberations the overall tone and tenor of the issues would have been covered, it is believed that there was substantial pressure on India to change the stance and name Russia [as the aggressor].


However, India appears to have stood its ground as is evident from the Joint Statement.

QUAD focus on the Indo Pacific is also a signal to China that a repeat of Ukraine will not be acceptable in this region.

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