Quad not Asian Nato: Foreign Minister

India and Australia held their first 2+2 ministerial dialogue, and while discussing Afghanistan, rejected China’s criticism of Quad as Asian Nato.

Rejecting China’s description of the Quad, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said it was important not to misrepresent reality and that the group is a platform for four countries to cooperate “for their benefit and for the benefit of the world”. “I think a term like Nato is very much a cold war term, looking back. I think Quad looks in the future, it reflects globalisation, it reflects the compulsions of countries to work together,” Jaishankar said, adding that Quad was focused on issues like vaccines, supply chains and education.

Australian foreign minister Marise Payne supplemented Jaishankar saying, “Quad members are champions of ASEAN centrality, we actively engage in that ASEAN architecture. We are committed to supporting the practical implementation of the ASEAN outlook on the Indo-Pacific.”

“I can’t see any relationship between such issues and NATO or any other kind of organisations like that. So, I think it is important not to misrepresent what is the reality,” Jaishankar said.

In his remarks after the meeting, Jaishankar also said Afghanistan was a major subject of discussion and that the two sides had agreed it was important for the international community to unite in its approach, guided by the August 30 UNSC resolution that emphasised “most of all” the Taliban’s commitment to not allow the use of Afghan soil for terrorism, including from terrorists and terrorist groups designated under resolution 1267. But apart from that, as Jaishankar said in what was India’s first reaction to the ‘government’ formation in Kabul, there was a concern about the inclusiveness of the dispensation, concerns about the treatment of women and minorities, matters related to travel of Afghans, issues regarding humanitarian assistance. “So, it is an evolving situation,” he said.

Jaishankar was speaking at a joint press event after he and Defence Minister Rajath Singh held the inaugural dialogue here with their Australian counterparts Payne and Peter Dutton. Expressing similar sentiments on Quad, Payne said as Australia and India have re-energised relations, there was also the opportunity to work through smaller groups like the Quad and other pieces of regional architecture like the East Asia Summit or the ASEAN regional forum.

“We also say that we have a positive and practical agenda -- around vaccines, around climate, around critical technology also trying to address some of the dangerous misinformation that pervades the world experience in relation to the (Covid) pandemic,” the minissster said.

Referring to Quad, she said the constructive engagement in a normal diplomatic network was overwhelmingly about contributing positively for that “open, inclusive and resilient region in which we all want to live”.

Payne and Dutton also called on PM Narendra Modi for a meeting in which a number of issues were discussed.

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