AUKUS has no link with Quad, won’t impact grouping’s functioning, says Shringla
The new security alliance between Australia, the UK and the US has no link with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and will have no impact on the functioning of the grouping, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla said on Tuesday ahead of the first in-person Quad Summit.
Shringla’s remarks, the first official response to AUKUS from the Indian side, came against the backdrop of widespread speculation on whether the new security alliance would dilute the Quad’s agenda or affect the working of the grouping that brings together India, Australia, Japan and the US.
“Let me make it clear that the Quad and the AUKUS are not groupings of a similar nature,” Shringla told a media briefing ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, during which he will participate in the maiden in-person Quad Summit on September 24.
The Quad is a “plurilateral grouping of countries with a shared vision of their attributes and values” and the four members have a shared vision of the Indo-Pacific as a free, open, transparent and inclusive region, he said.
“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 functioning,” he added.
The new alliance was unveiled last week by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden against the backdrop of China’s assertive actions across the Indo-Pacific, and its first initiative is aimed at equipping Australia with nuclear-powered submarines built with technology from the US and the UK.
France, a close strategic ally of India, reacted angrily to the new alliance as it resulted in Australia scrapping a nearly $90-billion deal to build 12 French-designed conventional submarines.
Responding to a question on whether there are any nuclear proliferation-related concerns regarding AUKUS, Shringla said Australia had already clarified that it would be working on nuclear-propelled submarines but “it would not have any nuclear weapons and, as such, will not be in contravention with any of Australia’s or international commitments with regard to the issue of nuclear proliferation”.
He said there is also no link between the Malabar naval exercise and the Quad, just “as there is no link between the AUKUS and the Quad”.
The Malabar exercise is conducted by the navies of India, the US and Japan, and Australia has joined the drills for the second consecutive year in 2021.
Shringla said the Quad has come a long way as a grouping, from initially holding meetings of senior officials to organising a meeting of foreign ministers in 2019 and moving to a virtual summit in March this year. “As we go along, I think we have already found a lot of common ground,” he said.
The Quad has also adopted a “positive and proactive agenda” with an array of initiatives at the global level to address contemporary issues such as the Covid-19 pandemic, supply of vaccines to Indo-Pacific nations, new and emerging technologies, climate change, infrastructure, maritime security, education, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
“The Quad will deal with all issues that would further its objectives of seeing our common vision of an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open and inclusive. From that perspective, the Quad will function and will do what it takes. The effort is to move on areas that would seek to co-opt and enable the Quad to cooperate with our Indo-Pacific partners,” Shringla said.