Again, creating ambiguity


It may be recalled that before the Prime Minister's US visit, foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said Quad was separate from AUKUS, and for that matter, was not lined with the Malabar exercise either, though the same nations were involved in both the Quad and Malabar. It was assumed at that time that India was trying to downplay the role of Quad to assuage any jittery nations in Asia. The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, Quad for short, is a non-defence, non-military arrangement, the United States has said. Has the grouping of India, Australia, Japan and the US just been down-graded? Or is it being re-purposed because of the emergence of AUKUS that comprises the US, the UK and Australia? Where does that leave India which is steadfastly against any military overtures? At an event in Mumbai, visiting US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman claimed that Quad is meant to discuss soft issues, like vaccines, supply chains, and climate.
The American "clarification" comes after Quad's four heads of State met in the US in-person and stressed the rule of law and regional security. It also comes just days before Quad's second phase of the Malabar naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal. The first phase was conducted in the Western Pacific in August, with the US deploying the pride of its navy, the over 100,000-ton Nimitz Class super aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson. The US chief of naval operations Admiral Mike Gilday said the exercise will help create an inclusive, free and open rules-based order and will increase "our interoperability for decades to come as well as maintain security, stability and prosperity". For good measure, between the two phases of the Malabar exercise, India conducted AUSINDEX, the bilateral naval exercise with Australia and JIMEX, with Japan. The Quad nations came together in the backdrop of China's modernisation of its military, intrusions into the Taiwan Strait, and its force projections even though they have refrained from taking China's name formally either as an opponent or challenger in the Indo-Pacific region. The ambiguity about China being the adversary, thus continues. India and Japan have border disputes with China but it is The US' superpower image that brings it to the region.

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