External affairs minister S Jaishankar on Friday offered a complete and unqualified Indian embrace of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), stripped off past hesitation and wariness, saying the group “fills a very important gap” that cannot be filled by any one country or a bilateral relationship in contemporary times.
Speaking to reporters at the conclusion of a whirlwind two-day engagement with the Biden administration at the highest level, the minister noted with mission-accomplished satisfaction that he had conveyed and underscored India’s desire to ramp up production of Covid-19 vaccines at many of his meetings, as the US holds an “absolutely indispensable” position in the supply chain.
Jaishankar’s other objectives for the visit were to convey appreciation for “very strong solidarity” shown by the United States with India as it deals with the second wave of Covid-19, and to engage with a new administration at a cabinet level and as, the minister put it they have their own world view and “they need to hear ours”.
Jaishankar met on Friday with secretary of defence Lloyd Austin and secretary of state Antony Blinken, topping off engagement the previous day with national security adviser Jake Sullivan, US trade representative Katherine Tai and the director of national intelligence Avril Haines; and lawmakers and business leaders.
THE IMPORTANCE OF QUAD
Hours before Jaishankar arrived in Washington DC from New York, the first two-day leg of his US visit, Kurt Campbell, who is President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific czar, said plans were afoot to convene an in-person summit of the leaders of Quad – Australia, Japan, India and the United States – this fall, purveying an aggressively coalescing entity.
“I mean when we are members of anything we are very keen about it, otherwise we won’t be members,” Jaishankar, who has emerged as the architect of Modi government’s studied assertiveness on the world stage, said in response to a question about India’s intent as a member of the Quad. “So, I mean we have clarity on Quad.”
“The Quad today, fills a very important gap, that has emerged in contemporary times,” the minister said, addressing the issue with unvarnished clarity, “where there are global or regional requirements, which cannot be filled by a single country, which cannot even be filled by one bilateral relationship, and which is not being addressed at the multilateral level.”
India’s commitment to the Quad has been the subject of much speculation despite the fact that it is Australia that displayed suspect intent by abandoning the fledgling group under pressure from China in 2008. The group was given up for dead until it was resurrected in 2017.
Jaishankar was India’s foreign secretary then. The first meeting of the renewed Quad, on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit, was scaled up to the level of ministers in 2019. Jaishankar attended that first ministerial, which took place on the sidelines of the UN general assembly meetings.
“I say this to you as someone who has pretty much attended all the, you know, not all the Quad meetings, or various Quad meetings at various levels as the Quad developed,” Jaishankar said, speaking of the group in personal terms for the first time, as he also positioned it in a geostrategic context.
“We see the Quad (as) an expression of the convergence of interests of many countries, it is in many ways a reflection of the contemporary nature of the world order, where you know, it’s not a, sort of, you know, at some stage, we have to put the Cold War behind us,” Jaishankar said, going on to dismiss sceptics and critics as those “who are stuck in the Cold War”.