India stands apart among Quad members on Ukraine threat

Indian External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (second from left) with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Melbourne on February 11, 2022. (AFP Photo)

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Melbourne, February 12, 2022

India’s External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has split from his Quad counterparts over the threat of a Russian invasion in Ukraine, declaring that he wants the group to focus on cooperation and collaboration rather than confrontation.

Foreign Ministers from India, Australia, Japan and the United States met in Melbourne on Friday (February 11, 2022) to discuss how they could coordinate efforts on a vast range of areas, including maritime security, pandemic recovery, vaccination, cyber security and global supply chain challenges.

The Russian challenge

The Ministers also discussed the looming crisis in Ukraine, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling Russia’s military threats a challenge to the rules-based order, and saying it mattered to the Quad even though it was “half a world away.”

“What is at stake is not simply, as important as it is, Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty independence, but very basic principles,” he told reporters after the meeting,” Blinken said.

“Principles like ‘one country’ cannot simply change the borders of another by force. Principles like ‘one country’ can’t simply dictate to another its choices, its policies, [or] with whom it will associate. If we allow those principles to be challenged with impunity, even if it’s half a world away in Europe, that will have an impact here as well, he said.”

However, Dr Jaishankar pointedly refused to be drawn into the conflict.

“I would just add that, as my colleagues have observed, we are for something not against someone. If the four of us cooperate practically and efficiently, I think the world will be a much better place,” he said at a press conference.

Position not a surprise

India’s position is unsurprising. It retains a strong relationship with Russia, which provided vital support to India during the Cold War.

Moscow also still sells large quantities of military equipment to New Delhi and the two countries maintain deep defence ties.

During a recent UN Security Council debate over Russia’s aggression, India called for peaceful dialogue and declined to criticise Moscow, simply reiterating that the “legitimate security interests” of all countries should be recognised.

Dr Jaishankar’s tone on Russia was also strikingly different to that taken by Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and her Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi.

Australia and Japan criticised China and Russia.

Senator Payne took aim at the “no limits” partnership unveiled earlier this month by China and Russia.

Undermining liberal democracy

Analysts say that the new agreement signals that both authoritarian states are intent on undermining the legitimacy of liberal democracy and US-led military alliances.

Senator Payne said that Russia and China’s vision was antithetical to those of liberal democracies.

“It is concerning because it does not present a global order which squares with those ambitions for freedom … and openness and sovereignty,” she said.

But the four countries have still found common ground across a vast range of other topics and vowed to intensify efforts to preserve maritime security and roll out Covid-19 vaccines.

Mr Hayashi said all four countries would work together to counter the challenges to maritime security posed by China in the South and East China seas.

The Quad countries also declared their opposition to coercion, in a clear reference to Beijing’s campaign of economic punishment against Australia.

– ABC

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