Tuesday, Jul 05, 2022
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Quad Meet: After Russia’s Ukraine Invasion, Could China Go A Similar Way In Taiwan?

US President Joe Biden, Australian PM Scott Morrison, Japan’s Fumio Kishida, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a virtual conversation at a time when Russia has sent its army into Ukraine and a full-scale war is raging in Europe.

Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping in conversation on the eve of Beijing Olympics
Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping in conversation on the eve of Beijing Olympics AP Photos

The Quad summit on Thursday was announced by the White House as a meeting to discuss the war against Ukraine and its implication for the Indo-Pacific. 

US President Joe Biden, Australia’s  Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japan’s Fumio Kishida, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a virtual conversation at a time when Russia has sent its army into Ukraine and a full-scale war is raging in Europe.

The summit was obviously convened to rally the Quad group behind US and western efforts to unite international opinion in support of Ukraine. Russia’s actions have given rise to fears that China may also feel that it could do a similar invasion of Taiwan. There has been much sabre-rattling by Beijing against Taiwan in the last two years.

The joint statement released at the end of the summit tried to warn countries against such misadventure. The read-out released by the White House noted that the leaders of the four countries ``reaffirm their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, in which the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states is respected and countries are free from military, economic, and political coercion. They reaffirmed their dedication to the Quad as a mechanism to promote regional stability and prosperity. ’’

On Ukraine, the four leaders said: "The Quad leaders discussed the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and assessed its broader implications. They agreed to stand up new humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mechanism that will enable the Quad to meet future humanitarian challenges in the Indo-Pacific and provide a channel for communication as they each address and respond to the crisis in Ukraine.’’

India has so far refrained from directly attacking President Putin’s military action against Ukraine. Whether there was sustained pressure by Biden on Modi to stand up on the side of democracy and back the west is not known. Besides the joint statement, each country issued its own take of the high-level meeting.

Australia and Japan both have military agreements with the US and have backed America’s tough stand against Vladimir Putin. The latest trilateral defence agreement between Australia, UK, and US (AUUKUS)  will provide Australia high-tech nuclear submarine technology. The submarines will assist Australia in effectively guarding the waterways of the Pacific. Japan too had stood firmly behind the US and NATO and against Russia in the current crisis.

India is the only member of the Quad that has divergent views on Ukraine. New Delhi has so far abstained four times when it came to a vote against Russia in the UN. Instead, India has repeatedly appealed for a halt to the fighting and getting back to the negotiating table. New Delhi’s mantra is diplomacy.

The Prime Minister’s Office in a statement said that the leaders reviewed the progress of the Quad initiatives since last September’s summit in Washington. The group decided to accelerate cooperation and have solid outcomes by the time of the four leaders meet in Japan later this year. The Prime Minister ``… underlined that the Quad must remain focused on its core objective of promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.’’ He called for concrete and practical cooperation within the Quad, in areas like Humanitarian and Disaster Relief, debt sustainability, supply chains, clean energy, connectivity, and capacity-building.”

New Delhi is concerned that with the US now focussed on Russia and Europe, America would take its eyes off the Indo-Pacific. Interest in containing China in the Indo-Pacific could be diluted as it gets increasingly involved in Europe. One of the reasons for India joining the Quad was to offset the growing threat from an aggressive and powerful China.

There was a reference to Ukraine in the PMO release, where he spoke in general terms about the importance of adhering to the UN Charter and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. ``Developments in Ukraine were discussed in the meeting, including its humanitarian implications. The Prime Minister emphasized the need to return to a path of dialogue and diplomacy.’’

The leaders also discussed other topical issues, including developments in ASEAN, the Indian Ocean region and the Pacific Islands. Prime Minister reiterated the importance of adhering to the UN Charter, international law and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.’’
Joe Biden tweeted after the summit, ``I met with fellow Quad leaders….about Russia’s ongoing attack on Ukraine and our commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity around the world, including the Indo-Pacific.’’

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida was more explicit in his reference to Ukraine. He said ``Unilateral changes to the status quo by force or coercion like the recent Russian aggression against #Ukraine is also unacceptable in the Indo-Pacific region. It is critically important for us to bring about a free and open Indo-Pacific. We agreed we will work in close cooperation to ensure the success of our next face-to-face Quad summit, which will be held in Tokyo in the coming months.’’

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