Quad A Force For Good In The World: US Secretary Of State Antony Blinken

Blinken reassures sceptics that as a major power, the US is capable of handling both, the war in Europe as well as in Indo-Pacific, meaning both Russia and China. 'We can run and chew gum at the same,' Blinken said in a throwback to former president Lyndon Johnson’s famous remark about his rival Gerald Ford.

Quad Foreign Ministers Meeting

A day after the G20 meeting, foreign ministers of the US, India, Japan and Australia met over breakfast for a review of the quadrilateral security dialogue (Quad) that Beijing sees as an effort to contain its growing political, economic and military might in Asia. After the meeting, the four ministers attended a session of the Raisina Dialogue on Quad.

India treads a fine line between Russia and the US ranged on opposing sides of the Ukraine war. It has so far succeeded in balancing its national interests and remaining neutral. China is with Russia, yet New Delhi has a major problem with Beijing and is in the Quad, which for all intents and purposes is aimed at containing China’s unbridled rise.

There is a concern in India and several East Asian countries that the single-minded focus on the war in Europe has distracted the US from Asia and its problems. This was evident during the meeting of the G20 foreign ministers. They could not build a consensus for the final communique because of differences over Ukraine. Sharp words were exchanged between Russia and America and its European allies during the closed-door discussions.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was asked precisely this question at the Raisina Dialogue during a session on the Quad session. Blinken linked Russian moves in Ukraine to aggressors in other parts of the world and said: “If we allow with impunity Russia to do what it is doing in Ukraine, then that’s a message to would-be aggressors everywhere that they may be able to get away too,” Blinken said. 

The fear in Taiwan is that China may try to take over that country militarily. Blinken also pointed out that there was support for Ukraine across the world as many countries feared that the Russian example could be followed by other authoritarian leaders who wanted to take over a smaller country.

Blinken went on to describe the Quad as a force for good, aimed at helping nations across the Indo-Pacific. “But having said that, you saw yesterday and you see today in this meeting of the Quad an equally intense focus on the issues that are having an impact on the lives of all of our fellow citizens where the Quad is a force, I believe, for good, positive, affirmative action.” He went on to say, “And the great power of the Quad is you have four likeminded countries united in their basic values, united in their basic interests, bringing different strengths….. not only tackling for ourselves but actually creating a global common good, particularly for other countries in the Indo-Pacific.”

Blinken also said “We can run and chew gum at the same time,” meaning a powerful country like the US is capable of dealing with both Europe and the Indo-Pacific, in simple terms, Russia and China. This was a throwback to late US president Lyndon Johnson’s remarks about his rival Gerald Ford who he said was so dumb that he could not run and chew gum at the same time.
For India, China remains a major security concern. The India-China military standoff which began in May 2020 in the Ladakh region is still on. Both countries have amassed troops along the border.

After bilateral talks with China’s new foreign minister Qin Gang, foreign minister Subramanyam Jaishankar described the situation along the Line of Actual Control as “abnormal”.  The Chinese have stuck to their old line that normal ties should continue while the border issue is being resolved. Qin had said the boundary issue should be put in “the proper place in bilateral relations”.

The Quad is an attempt by India to work with like-minded countries that fear China’s aggressive moves. Quad leaders proclaim that the group is not a military alliance. The military alliance in the Indo-Pacific is that of the English-speaking powers – the US, UK and Australia. Washington and Britain are helping Australia build nuclear-powered submarines that will help keep watch on the Chinese navy in the Indo-Pacific waters.  

The joint statement released by Quad after the meeting read. “Our meeting today reaffirms the Quad’s steadfast commitment to supporting a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is inclusive and resilient. We strongly support the principles of freedom, rule of law, sovereignty and territorial integrity, peaceful settlement of disputes without resorting to threat or use of force and freedom of navigation and overflight, and oppose any unilateral attempt to change the status quo, all of which are essential to the peace, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and beyond,” a statement released after the meeting read.