New Delhi, May 24: QUAD Summit 2022 took place in Tokyo on May 24 where the leaders of four nations — India, Japan, the US and Australia deliberated upon various regional and global issues including Ukraine war and peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
Interestingly, in the run up to the QUAD Summit, the US President visited the Republic of Korea and Japan from May 20 to 24 with the stated objective of further deepening the ties.
There are many skeptics who are raising doubts about the QUAD members’ unity after India’s decision to abstain from the UN resolution against Russia over the Ukraine conflict. QUAD Group has steered ahead since it was first conceived in 2007 with a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. The group became more coalesced after a decade and graduated to a formal association from being just a tentative coalition. Malabar Naval Exercises in November 2020 in which navies of Australia, India, Japan and the US participated, projected the power of unity among QUAD members.
It is likely that India’s neutral stance on the Ukraine war, unlike other QUAD members, may come up during deliberations among the QUAD members in the Summit. However, it is, almost a foregone conclusion, that despite US’s insistence on supporting Ukraine and decrying Russia for the war, India would stand firm in its stance that war should be stopped; negotiation and dialogue should be resorted to resolve disputes, humanitarian access should be provided, and civilian casualties should be avoided.
It is short of US’s expectations, but India is a sovereign nation and it has long and reliable ties with Russia, therefore, while it would continue to urge ending hostilities and resolving the disputes through dialogue and negotiations, it would maintain its measured and principled stand in this regard.
All the Quad members are democratic and believe in complying with international conventions while pursuing their security and strategic interests together in the Indo-Pacific region. The description of the QUAD as the “Asian Version of NATO” in some quarters springs from the frustration that the presence of a QUAD like alliance would not allow any country to jeopardize peace and stability in the region.
The QUAD, being a group of democratic countries which respect the sovereignty of each other, would not make any fuss on each other’s foreign policy. Rather they would focus on strategic collaboration in the Indo-Pacific region. The intention of QUAD is clear from the very beginning, i.e., maintaining peace and stability as well as smooth mercantile movement in the Indo-Pacific and not expansionism.
India is pivotal to the US Indo-Pacific strategy. Its importance in the Indo-Pacific region has increased due to a shift in geopolitics as highlighted by the Indian Foreign Minister – “the Indian and Pacific Oceans have become much more seamless. It is increasingly untenable to see them in compartmentalized terms, which is part of a larger geopolitical shift”.
India is now recognised as a great link between the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean — the major theatres of contemporary geopolitics. India’s geographic location, size, and military capabilities as the world’s second largest army, ranking fifth overall (ahead of France, Israel and South Korea), and a formidable presence in the Indian Ocean, make India an ideal strategic partner for the QUAD.
The US State Department has always highlighted that a strong US-India partnership is vital to the Indo-Pacific vision, particularly for safe and free mercantile movement and compliance of the international conventions in and around the South China Sea in particular and the Indo-Pacific region in general. During his recent India visit, the Prime Minister of the UK also highlighted India’s importance in maintaining peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and his willingness to cooperate with India in this regard.
India’s importance for QUAD cannot be underestimated. It has been an influential power in South Asia and SouthEast Asia. It enjoys deep economic and strategic ties with the countries of the region. Since, India shares democratic values with other QUAD partners and security concerns due to increased Chinese unlawful activities in the Indo-Pacific region, often based on military expansionism and violation of international laws, India remains strategically the most pivotal partner of QUAD and other Western countries.
Anticipation about critical discussion in the QUAD summit over India’s position on the Russia – Ukraine conflict was far-fetched and unrealistic. The US has already indicated that it understands and appreciates India’s position on the Ukraine war.