External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday dismissed China's vehement opposition to the Quad, saying the grouping will do "positive things" and contribute to the prosperity and stability of the strategic Indo-Pacific region and criticising it repeatedly will not make the four-nation grouping less credible. Jaishankar's remarks in response to a question came a day after he and other foreign ministers of Quad –US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Japan’s Yoshimasa Hayashi and Australia's Marise Payne - on Friday vowed to expand cooperation to keep the Indo-Pacific free from "coercion".
The reference to coercion is seen as a veiled message to China's more assertive and aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region. "All four of us yesterday, the two of us and Blinken and Hayashi, as well, made that point that we are here to do positive things. We are here to contribute to the peace, prosperity, and stability of the region," Jaishankar said while speaking at a joint press conference along with his Australian counterpart here.
"Our record and our actions and stances is fairly clear and by criticising it repeatedly, it doesn't make us less credible," he asserted. China, which has territorial disputes with many countries in the strategic Indo-Pacific region, has been vehemently opposing the Quad alliance since its formation. On Friday, China termed the Quad alliance between the US, India, Australia and Japan as a "tool" to contain China's rise and to maintain American hegemony.
"China believes that the so-called Quad group cobbled together by the US, Japan, India and Australia is essentially a tool for containing and besieging China to maintain US hegemony. It aims to stoke confrontation and undermine international solidarity and cooperation," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said in Beijing in response to a question on the Quad grouping.
"I want to stress that as the Cold War is long over, the attempt to forge a so-called alliance to contain China wins no support and leads nowhere," he said. Zhao also alleged that the US was playing up the “China threat” theory in order to "smear, oppress and contain China’s development". Speaking alongside Jaishankar, Payne said the Quad is "not against anything."
"We're about building, about building confidence and resilience, about promoting a region in which all countries are able to be and feel sovereign and secure without the threat of coercion or intimidation. We have a really practical agenda, which as evidenced by our support of access to vaccines, indeed over 500 million vaccines delivered under the Quad leaders commitments on vaccination,” Payne said. For Australia, the minister said, the Quad is a very complementary part of the network of relationships that the country has both regionally and internationally.
"And it is all about helping to positively shape our region as indeed it develops and grows, and Australia has welcomed the development and growth of China over the years. But we have always said that we will also act in protection of our national interests as any sovereign nation would,” the minister said. In November 2017, the US, Australia, India and Japan gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the Quad to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence, amidst China's growing military presence in the strategic region.
China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea. Beijing is also involved in a maritime dispute with Japan over the East China Sea. The Quad leaders at their first-in-person summit in Washington on September 25 hosted by US President Joe Biden had pledged to ensure a "free and open" Indo-Pacific, which is also "inclusive and resilient", as they noted that the strategically vital region, witnessing China's growing military manoeuvring, is a bedrock of their shared security and prosperity.
With PTI Inputs