Quad to be operationalised in Melbourne. No scope for expansion now.
The Quad foreign ministers meet on February 11 with the agenda to translate its discussions and objectives on ground, be it vaccine delivery, critical and emerging technologies. Of course, belligerent China will be the elephant in the room.
In the run-up to Quad summit in April-May this year, the foreign ministers of powerful security grouping are meeting in Australia on Friday to operationalize the arrangement on Indo-Pacific, vaccine delivery, critical and emerging technologies, and global security environment.
External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar left for the Quad ministerial via Qatar this morning with India clear that the security grouping should consolidate its gains and reflect policies on ground before even talking about expansion of the arrangement. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Ann Payne will be attending the crucial meeting at a time when China is belligerent towards Quad partners over Taiwan and is dragging its feet to fully resolve the May 2020 Ladakh stand-off with India.
After attending the Quad meeting, EAM Jaishankar will be holding bilateral discussions with his Australian counterpart with a possible meeting with Prime Minister Scott Morrison as both the countries have rapidly cemented ties post 2014. Today, Australia is one of the key partners of India with Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally invested in improving the bilateral relationship with Canberra as both the middle-powers have convergence on host of issues.
While the Quad has raised its level from Foreign Secretary in 2017, to Foreign Ministers in 2019 and Summit level in 2021, the grouping will be linked through a diplomatic block chain with no permanent secretariat as it is a thing of the past. The meeting is extremely significant as the foreign ministers will translate the QUAD policies on ground rather than reduce it to a talk shop. For instance, the four leaders will sit together to translate vaccine delivery on ground by giving specific tasks like manufacturing and funding of Covid vaccines to leader countries.
As the Quad ministers will deliberate on the Ukraine crisis and Chinese emerging proximity to Russia and its belligerence over Taiwan, the leaders will also discuss on building trusted supply chains for emerging and critical technologies like 5G, 6G, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. “Rather than debating on expansion of Quad, time has come to translate policies on ground. The time for symbolism is over, Quad needs to be actionable,” said a former foreign secretary.
At the Melbourne summit, the Quad ministers are expected to work out a policy to mesh the diplomatic bureaucracies of the partners as the latter poses the biggest hurdle to forward movement. “ It is one thing to make a statement on vaccines, but with the kind of political overtones vaccines have acquired, the Quad ministers need to identify who will make the vaccine and which are the countries that will be supplied to on a priority basis as per requirement,” said a former Indian ambassador to US.