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International relations

Quad is the landscape ahead, India's foreign minister says

Relationship with China 'profoundly disturbed' by border clash: Jaishankar

Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, left, with Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi before their luncheon meeting at the Iikura Guest House in Tokyo on Oct. 7.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- The rise to prominence of the quadrilateral security dialogue, or Quad, between the U.S., Japan, India and Australia is a reflection of the shift from a unipolar world to a multipolar one and will be central in the landscape ahead, Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said Friday.

"I think the future of the Quad and any other arrangements, you know, which countries may have of a similar nature actually reflects the movement of the world to multipolarity," he said in an online session with the New York-based Asia Society.

The diplomat said the shift in the global order began with the 2008 financial crisis. Unlike during the Cold War, which saw the two camps tackle global challenges through their respective alliance mechanisms, and in the unipolar era that followed, when the U.S. was looked to for leadership, the post-financial-crisis world has lacked a structure to resolve these issues, he said.

Shared challenges have "nobody, no single structure, no single organization, no ... preexisting set of players who can actually come and deal with it," he said.

This more multipolar world will evolve so that a "smaller set of countries" come together on certain issues and "sit down and do something," Jaishankar said. He called this "plurilateralism."

Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar speaks online to the New York-based Asia Society on Oct. 16.

"It's a very natural evolution outcome of a more multipolar world," Jaishankar said. He noted that when then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe initially proposed the Quad, the timing was not ripe for such a framing.

"But it is now very much ... the sort of the landscape that lies ahead," he said.

Top diplomats from the Quad agreed in Tokyo earlier this month to hold regular meetings, ideally once a year.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Nikkei in a recent interview that he wants to formalize and potentially broaden the quadrilateral security dialogue.

"Once we've institutionalized what we're doing -- the four of us together -- we can begin to build out a true security framework," Pompeo said, embracing the idea of turning the Quad into what could be called a quasi-alliance framework.

The quartet has been cooperating more closely on security matters. Japan and India signed an agreement last month allowing them to share military supplies and logistical support, and India and Australia inked a similar deal in June. Australia has expressed interest in joining this year's Malabar joint naval exercise, an annual event held by the U.S., India and Japan.

Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, recently told Nikkei that "there's no doubt that Chinese policies towards India, Australia and Japan in recent years have hardened all three countries' policies toward China" and that there is ample room for strengthening cooperation among the four countries that constitute the Quad.

In the Asia Society session, Jaishankar said the buildup of Chinese forces in the border areas between the two countries was a clear shift away from the peace and tranquility that had governed the Himalayas for 30 years.

A tense military standoff in June led to the deaths of 20 Indians. "It was the first military casualty we had after 1975," he said, and it "obviously had a very deep public impact, a very major political impact. And it has left the relationship profoundly disturbed."

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