By Suhasini Hyder/The Hindu
New Delhi, June 9: India does not consider the newly re-established quadrilateral format of U.S.-Japan-India-Australia as a part of its “Indo-Pacific” region policy, says India’s Ambassador to Russia Pankaj Saran, who suggested that India would like to engage more closely with Russia in the Indo-Pacific region as well. The comments come a day a meeting of officials of the four countries, the “Quad”, ended in Singapore, and indicates that India’s maritime partnerships would not be restricted to the quad formation with the U.S. and its allies.
“The Quadrilateral format of U.S.-Japan-India-Australiais one of the many multilateral dialogues in the region, and not directed against any country. It is not part of the Indo-Pacific region concept outlined by Prime Minister Modi in Shangri-La,” Mr. Saran told the Russian TASS news agency in an interview made available by the Indian embassy.
It is important that the Indo-Pacific Region (IPR) and Quad format are not confused with each other. The Indian view of IPR is positive — this is an open and inclusive arrangement which is not directed against any country nor intended to contain any country,” he added, referring to the general belief that the Quad arrangement came together in November 2017 in a joint effort to contain China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea, and forays in India’s neighbourhood.
However, given improved relations with China in the last few months, and the Wuhan Summit where Mr. Modi travelled to China to meet President Xi Jinping, the government has been seen less active in promoting the Quad, also declining a request from Australia to join the ongoing Malabar naval exercises with the other three Quad members.
On June 7, at the end of the second Quad meeting, attended by joint secretary-level officials, all four countries issued separate but similar statements. Amongst the divergences were lines committing the Quad to “safeguarding and strengthening” the Indo-Pacific region that were issued by the U.S., Australia andJapan,while the phrase was absent in the Indian statement. India also spoke of its Indo-Pacific policy in “plurilateral formats,” which the others didn’t.
Referring to Mr. Modi’s speech at the Shangri-La dialogue June 1 as well as what he called the “historic” informal summit with President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Mr. Saran said that “expanding (the) partnership with Russia is an integral part of our Indo-Pacific policy… Prime Minister (Modi) also noted that the maturity of India’s special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia was a measure of India’s strategic autonomy.”
Mr. Saran will soon take charge as Deputy National Security Advisor in the Prime Minister’s office in New Delhi, making his remarks particularly significant, as is the timing, just ahead of Mr. Modi’s visit to Qingdao in China to attend the SCO summit where he will have meetings with both Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin.
(The featured image at the top shows Pankaj Saran, India’s envoy to Russia)