AUKUS Has No Relevance to Quad, Nor Will it Impact its Functioning: India

Foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla’s words are the first formal reaction from India on the formation of AUKUS.

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New Delhi: Asserting that Quad is not similar to the newly formed security partnership between Australia, the UK and the US, the UK (AUKUS), India’s foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla stated that the latter had no relevance to, and nor would it impact the group of four democracies operating in the Indo-Pacific.

Shringla’s remarks on AUKUS and the Quad were made at a press conference on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US. The highlight during his four-day visit will be the first in-person Quad leaders’ summit on September 24 at Washington, followed by an address to the UN General Assembly on September 25.

This is the Indian prime minister’s first foreign trip outside the neighbourhood since the pandemic began last year.

“From our perspective, it (AUKUS) has neither relevance to Quad, nor will it have any impact on its functioning,” Shringla told reporters in answer to a question about whether the new grouping will put the Quad summit in its shadow.

Earlier this week, US President Joe Biden announced a new trilateral defence partnership with Australia and the UK. Under the new pact, the US will transfer technology for the UK to manufacture nuclear submarines for Australia to patrol in the Indo-Pacific. While China did not figure in the pronouncement, the formation of the new alliance was clearly aimed at challenging Beijing’s ambitions in the Indian Ocean.

India had, until now, remained silent. The foreign secretary’s words are the first formal reaction from India on the formation of AUKUS, which has led to adverse reactions not just from China, but also Europe and south-east Asia.

“The Quad and the AUKUS are not groupings of a similar nature. Quad is plurilateral grouping, a group of countries who have shared vision of their attributes and values. They also have a shared of vision of Indo-pacific region as a free, open, transparent inclusive region,” said Shringla.

Also read: How the Fall of Kabul Impacts India’s Regional Security and Indo-Pacific Diplomacy

He asserted that the Quad had a “positive, proactive agenda”, which included supply of vaccines to Indo-Pacific, new and emerging technologies, climate change, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and education. “On the other hand, AUKUS is [a] security alliance between three countries. We are not party to this alliance.”

When asked as to whether the Malabar exercise was the extent to which the Quad would securitise its alliance, Shringla asserted, “There is no link between Malabar and Quad just like AUKUS and Quad.” Australia joined the trilateral Malabar naval exercises in 2020, after a gap of over a decade.

There had been concerns raised by countries ranging from Russia to Indonesia about whether the new plan to equip Australia with nuclear submarines would be in contravention of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“I saw that the Australians have clarified that they are working on a nuclear propelled submarine…It would not have have any nuclear bombs. And, as such will not be in contravention of any of Australia’s and international commitments with regard to the issue of non-proliferation. This…is what I have seen and am not saying from any other perspective,” Shringla said.

Regarding Modi’s bilateral talks with Biden, Shringla said that it will feature the “current regional security situation following recent developments in Afghanistan, our stakes as a neighbour and a longstanding and a preferred development partner of Afghanistan”.

He added that the two leaders “would undoubtedly discuss the need to stem radicalism, extremism, cross-border terrorism and the dismantling of global terrorist networks”.