Alice Wells: India should invest in Quad instead of BRICS and RIC
The US administration’s former pointperson for South Asia on Sunday called on India to step up its “investment in the Quad” grouping instead of giving preference to engagements with organisations such as Brics and RIC in which China plays a key role.
Alice Wells, a career diplomat who retired as the acting assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia last month, made the remarks on Twitter in response to an article that argued India shouldn’t be seen as a pushover in its ongoing border standoff with China.
“This is a good time for India to up its investment in the Quad. The appearance of privileging BRIC/RIC meetings over engagement with likeminded partners is discordant,” she tweeted, referring the Quadrilateral alliance or Quad that groups together Australia, India, Japan and the US.
India has traditionally been reluctant to play up its participation in the Quad, which was upgraded to the level of foreign ministers only last September.
Amid the tense standoff with China, external affairs minister S Jaisjankar had joined a virtual meeting of foreign ministers of the Russia-India-China (RIC) grouping on June 23. He had also taken a thinly veiled dig at China in his address, saying the world’s “leading voices” should act in an exemplary manner by respecting international law and recognising the interests of partners.
The foreign ministers of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (Brics) grouping had held a virtual meeting on April 28, days before the border standoff became public. China has mobilised troops in several stretches of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), especially the Galwan Valley that has been the focus of tensions. A violent face-off on June 15 resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and unspecified Chinese casualties.
Wells’ remarks came a day after the Indian Navy and Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) conducted an exercise in the Indian Ocean. The Japanese warships JS Kashima and JS Shimayuki of the JMSDF training squadron were joined by the Indian Navy’s INS Rana and INS Kulish for the exercise that promoted mutual understanding.
The deputy chief of the Japanese mission in New Delhi, Toshihide Ando, said this was the 15th exercise between the two sides in the past three years.
“This is a goodwill training to promote mutual understanding and trust with the Indian Navy,” he said. “The content of this exercise is tactical and communications training with no specific scenario.”
Shortly before she retired in May, Wells had strongly backed India amid the border tensions with China, saying such disputes are a “reminder of the threat posed by China”.
Wells had also said that like-minded nations such as the US, India, Australia and Asean states have rallied together in the face of China’s “provocations and disturbing behaviour”.
Answering a question on the India-China tensions, Wells had said: “The flare-ups on the border, I think, are a reminder that Chinese aggression is not always just rhetorical. And so whether it’s in the South China Sea or whether it’s along the border with India, we continue to see provocations and disturbing behaviour by China that raises questions about how China seeks to use its growing power.”
She had added, “What we want to see is an international system that provides benefit to everyone and not a system in which there is suzerainty to China. And so I think in this instance, the border disputes are a reminder of the threat posed by China.”