QUAD to deepen engagement with asean

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QUAD to deepen engagement with asean

Friday, 10 March 2023 | Kumardeep Banerjee

QUAD to deepen engagement with asean

QUAD sends a  message to China in no uncertain terms

One of the most favourable outcomes from the series of high-level meetings in and around G20 finance ministers’, central governors and foreign ministers’ engagements during the last two weeks, has been the bilateral and plurilateral meetings India managed on the sidelines. The reenergizing of India, the Germany partnership, and the repurposing of India, and Italy's relationship, would bear huge dividends in the long run. India managed to convey its centrality in any Indo-Pacific outlook, to the most significant power centres in Europe, taken together with France (which is already a close defence partner), the trio could significantly alter the European Union's future engagements in the region. The long pending Free trade agreements could get a fresh forward momentum, even as the Technology and Trade Council (a second for the EU with any country) would serve as a permanent secretariat to sort trade issues with India.

Meanwhile, India hosted the QUAD foreign ministers meeting in New Delhi, which could be one of the most significant ones in recent times. The QUAD joint statement posts the meeting reiterated the commitment of all four members to a free, rules-based, inclusive, resilient Indo pacific region, which would steadfastly oppose any coercive steps to unilaterally change the status quo, and threaten territorial integrity or sovereignty. The message was loud and clear for China. The QUAD members reiterated the centrality of ASEAN (Association of SouthEast Asian Nations) principles and approach, for future engagements in the region. India, the US, Australia and Japan would deepen engagement with ASEAN-led architecture, including the East Asia summit and the ASEAN regional forum. They put their weight behind Indonesia’s ASEAN chairmanship including the theme “ASEAN matters, Epicentrum of Growth”. The message to China was, the QUAD will deepen engagements with ASEAN nations including setting up a formal platform for greater collaboration, thereby stalling any coercive practices. The QUAD also expressed firm support for the Pacific island countries by committing to stand by their principles on maritime security, resilient infrastructure and climate change. A similar text found its way into the joint statement for the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), whose members are of great significance to India and Australia. The IORA is an intergovernmental association of 23 countries dotting the Indian ocean. Many of these nations have faced an aggressive China, including, but not restricted to being forced to hand over their critical sea ports, under China’s opaque infrastructure financing policy. China has taken note of the situation and in a press conference, this week, newly appointed Foreign affairs minister Qin Gang said “Indo-Pacific Strategy is bound to fail, even as he reiterated the threat of creating a Ukraine-like crisis in the region by the US and its allies.

However, the best outcome from the QUAD meeting was an affirmation by the members, to put serious weight behind the UN charter. The joint statement read “our steadfast commitment to strengthening the UN and international system through a comprehensive reform agenda, including through expansion in permanent and non-permanent seats of the UN Security Council. In this regard, we commit to active and constructive engagement in the Inter-Governmental Negotiations (IGN) process on Security Council Reforms with an overall objective of making the UN Security Council more effective, representative, and credible. “This, puts the might of the US firmly behind India’s constant struggle to change the contours of the UN security council, to get its rightful place on the global exclusive high table, which has been constantly vetoed by China.

The Quad members also committed to supporting meritorious and independent candidates for various key positions in the UN to maintain its impartiality and integrity. Appointments to top positions in the UN have also been captured by China in the two decades, giving it the unfair advantage of running its stated national policies through a global platform like the UN, thereby sculling many relevant interests of other member nations including India.

(The author is a foreign affairs commentator)

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