Not going AUKUS way: India okay with Quad emerging as non-military entity
While India has sought to publicly downplay the impact of the recently launched security alliance between Australia, the UK and the US (AUKUS) on the Quad - both of whom are focused on the Indo-Pacific region - it is secretly pleased that the latter group has been “de-securitised” as a result.
India has been wary about militarising the Quad - the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue - it conducts with Australia, Japan and the United States. AUKUS, with its unabashedly security bearing, has “de-securitised” the Quad, and this “is what we have wanted”, a person familiar with these discussions said on condition of being identified only as a source.
“We have no intention of militarising the Quad”, the source added, on the eve of crucial talks Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to hold with US officials over the next two days. The person insisted that a lot of people have mistakenly tied the Malabar military exercises - which India has hosted and conducted with Japan and the US for years and now Australia - to the Quad as the group’s security and defence aspects.
They are “not linked”, said the source.
There was some talk in the waning days of the Trump administration of giving the Quad a formal structure, something like an Indo-Pacific version of the Nato military alliance.
India has enthusiastically welcomed the non-military and non-security direction the Quad has taken in recent months as it has elevated its exchanges to the summit level, driven by US President Joe Biden, the source said, pointing to the three working groups launched at the virtual summit of the leaders in March: on vaccines, emerging technologies and climate.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will join President Joe Biden, Australia’s Scott Morrison and Japan’s Yoshihide Suga for the the first in-person summit of the Quad leaders on Friday. Joe Biden, the host, indicated this in his maiden UN General Assembly speech on Tuesday and their talks will be focused on tackling “challenges ranging from health security to climate to emerging technologies”.
The Indian side is going into the in-person summit with the expectation of building on the initiatives of the March meeting.
Modi has a packed calendar of engagement before and after the Quad. On Thursday, his first full day in Washington DC, on his seventh visit to the US as prime minister, his key ceremonial meeting will be with Vice-President Kamala Harris, the first Indian-American to hold the post of the second most powerful political position in the United States.
Their discussions could range from the “management of Covid-19 to issues like cooperation in the high-tech sector and the space sector, where the vice-president has an interest and a number of areas including resilient and secure supply chain, which is something of great interest to both sides”, the source said.
There is a possibility of an announcement of an India visit by Kamala Harris at some stage. People familiar with the discussions asked to “wait for tomorrow”.
The prime minister starts the day with meetings with CEO of some of the America’s top companies in solar power, IT, hedge fund and equity. Meetings with top US CEOs have been a recurring feature of Narendra Modi’s visits to the US. Indian-American Shantanu Narayen, of Adobe will be among them.
Narendra Modi will also hold a long-overdue meeting with Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose two previously scheduled visits to India were cancelled. Scott Morrison, although, had given Narendra Modi a heads-up on the AUKUS announcement.
Narendra Modi is scheduled to meet Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga for the last bilateral of the day of Thursday.