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No such thing as containing China: US on quadrilateral alliance involving India

Talk of a quadrilateral alliance of India, US, Australia and Japan has gained strength in recent weeks after Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono stated Prime Minister Abe will propose it in his discussions with President Trump during his visit.

world Updated: Nov 05, 2017 23:46 IST
Yashwant Raj
A new Great Game? US President Donald Trump gestures to Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as Japanese professional golfer Hideki Matsuyama looks on, as they play golf at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, north of Tokyo on Sunday.
A new Great Game? US President Donald Trump gestures to Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as Japanese professional golfer Hideki Matsuyama looks on, as they play golf at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, north of Tokyo on Sunday.(REUTERS)

The United States stressed increasing cooperation with allies and partners India, Australia and Japan in the Indo-Pacific region on the eve of President Donald Trump’s delegation-level meeting with his host Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“The US is always talking very closely, from the leader level all the way down to our close allies, Australia and Japan,” a senior administration official told reporters, previewing the upcoming bilateral meeting, when asked if a quadrilateral or ‘quad’ alliance of the US, Australia, Japan and India could figure during the talks in Tokyo on Monday.

“We, of course -- we do not have a security alliance -- none of those countries have a security alliance with India.  India is an increasingly important security partner, no doubt. It's natural that they should be, given that they are really, sort of, conceptually the western edge of the Indo-Pacific region; the United States making up the eastern edge of that.”

But the official rejected suggestions it was about containing China, as it is being seen around the world increasingly, including in Beijing. “I don’t think there's such a thing as containing China.”

Talk of a quadrilateral alliance has gained strength in recent weeks after Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono stated Prime Minister Abe will propose it in his discussions with President Trump during his visit as an alternative to China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative.

India is open to discussions “on issues that advance our interests and promote our viewpoint”, external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said, adding, “As far as we are concerned, we have an open mind to cooperate with countries with convergence but obviously on an agenda which is relevant to us.”

India is concerned about the predatory nature of the OBOR, part of which traverses Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and had boycotted a summit called by China. 

An alternative arrangement was suggested by the United States during secretary of state Rex Tillerson’s recent India visit. 

Tillerson, who is accompanying Trump on this 12-day, five-nation Asia tour, had earlier said in a speech that the US had initiated  “a quiet conversation” to find a multilateral alternative to the Chinese initiative.

He had spoken of the four countries — the US, India, Japan and Australia — as the four “anchors” of the Indo-Pacific region, and told reporters some initial talks had taken place.

But it’s early days yet. The state department has said a “working-level quadrilateral meeting” could take place in the near term.