China was the elephant in White House, Quad up to the challenge
Although the Quad joint statement does not mention the word China, there was realism about Beijing’s actions and capabilities at the summit with US President Joe Biden keeping the focus on the challenges posed by a rising superpower. While it may not have been spelt out explicitly, the Quad summit is expected to become an annual event with all the partners deciding to deepen and expand the group agenda to other areas on the foundation of trust, resilience, and capability.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi being the senior member of Quad after being seven years at the helm of Indian affairs, the summit was not only seized of the challenges posed by China but also ready to meet them. The Quad meeting broke many a myth with President Biden totally Asia centric instead of the expected focus on Europe. The summit was no American cover-up for the perceived Afghanistan withdrawal fiasco, instead, Biden appeared very solid and in grip of the Indo-Pacific situation. According to key people, contrary to common belief, President Biden was hard-nosed and his administration a practitioner of realpolitik in protecting US interests against its adversaries.
Even though the focus of Quad was directed at India’s northern neighbour, there were no illusions about India’s western neighbour Pakistan, but the Biden administration was still weighing the pros and cons of the relationship in the context of their use in Afghanistan.
The Quad joint statement is quite categorical on both China and Pakistan (in the context of Afghanistan) without mentioning either by name as the group’s agenda goes far beyond these two countries. The statement recommits the Quad partners to promote free, open, rules-based order, rooted in international law and undaunted by coercion, to bolster security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. “We stand for the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes, democratic values, and territorial integrity of states,” the Quad statement said.
The Quad statement on South Asia is guided by the UNSC resolution 2593, passed under the Presidentship of India on August 30, 2021. “We denounce the use of terrorist proxies and emphasized the importance of denying any logistical, financial or military support to terrorist groups which could be used to launch or plan terror attacks, including cross border attacks,” the statement said while the Quad leaders stood up for Afghan people.
By making ASEAN countries and European Union central to the Quad’s Indo-Pacific initiative, the group unlike China has no desire to alienate any future partner with the core group remaining the same.