US isn’t yet keen on formalising Quad, says state department official

Updated on Oct 01, 2020 10:44 AM IST

The official also said that human rights organisation Amnesty International’s decision to shut down its India operations “received attention at the highest levels” of the Trump administration

The US Capitol in Washington, DC.(Bloomberg)
The US Capitol in Washington, DC.(Bloomberg)
Hindustan Times, Washington, DC | ByYashwant Raj

Ahead of an upcoming ministerial meeting of the Quad - as a consultative group comprising India, the US, Japan and Australia calls itself - a senior US state department official dismissed talk of formalising the association, saying America wanted to strengthen existing regional architectures, not create new ones. The meeting is scheduled for October 6.

The official also said, addressing a wide range of India-US issues, that human rights organisation Amnesty International’s decision to shut down its India operations had “received attention at the highest levels” of the Trump administration and it was being followed “very, very closely” by members of US congress.

The official reiterated the US call for India and China to settle their border dispute using “their existing bilateral channels… and not resort to military force”.

The official addressed the “situation” around Amnesty International shutting down its India operations on Tuesday, in response to a question. “We’ve been very, very closely following this issue, not just in the administration, but I know that our members of congress have (been following) as well” the official said, adding, “It has received attention at the highest levels of our government.”

Speculation about formalising the four-country consultative group known as the Quad received a boost in September when a senior state department official, Steven Biegun, was seen to be signaling a US willingness to explore the possibility of growing the Quad into a Nato-like formally organised group.

The US state department official said Biegun’s speech was a misinterpretation of what “he actually said (and) what it was the analysts believed he was getting at”.

“The United States is building new and stronger bonds with the nations that share our values across the Indo-Pacific region,” the official said. “India, Australia and Japan are the main three (countries) that we have gotten together on the Quad. And these relationships flow from the spirit of respect to inclusivity and partnership, not domination. We all have our own Indo-Pacific strategies and approaches, and we share a complimentary vision of a free and open region that’s committed to a rules-based order and respect for international law and the peaceful resolution of disputes.”

Sameer Lalwani, a South Asia expert with the think tank Stimson Center, said, “I don’t see these propositions as mutually exclusive - you can build new infrastructure on top of existing regional architecture to reinforce rather than displace it.

“Deputy secretary Biegun even seemed to allude to that in his remarks a month ago. Gradually elevating the Quad from a grouping of consultations to expressed commitments to coordinated capabilities and actions can be additive, bolstering that regional architecture and deterring challenges to that order.”

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