New Delhi: Australia is open to having China as a “partner” in the Quad and it is “not in the containment club” when it comes to dealing with Beijing, said Prime Minister Scott Morrison Thursday. According to him, Australia’s objective is not to “constrain China’s growth” under the Quad framework, which has India, Japan and the US as partner nations.
His comments come barely a week after the first in-person Quad summit took place in Washington DC, where the grouping, in a veiled dig at China, called for peace, stability and security in the Indo-Pacific. The summit was also held to discuss the Quad’s road map.
“I don’t think India and Australia consider it as something that needs to be balanced in relation to China. That’s not the objective. Our objective (in) working together is to ensure that we promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, and everybody who wants to participate in that, including China, is a welcome partner in that cause,” said Morrison at an online media briefing.
“We don’t really want to see the region in such binary terms. That’s not how the Quad is approaching the challenges that we see in the region.”
He, however, added that the grouping would of course want to deter “any type of behaviour that threatens peace and security in the region, that threatens the development and prosperity of countries in the region, or in any way seeks to limit their sovereignty or … their access to the freedoms that exist under international law. Of course, we want that. That’s what the basis of a free and open Indo-Pacific is. And, so, we seek that goal”.
Morrison also said he hoped China — which has been a critic of the Quad — will seek a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific, adding that India shares that view too.
“I would hope and expect and think that that’s what I would hope China would be seeking for the Indo-Pacific. See, certainly from Australia’s perspective — and I would be so bold to assume, you know, in my own discussions that… this would be India’s view, too — is we’re not seeking in any way to constrain China’s growth. Never have. We’re not in the containment club when it comes to China.”
The Australian PM noted that his country has “greatly benefited” from China’s economic growth and thus believes it is imperative to act responsibly in the Indo-Pacific region.
Quad ‘not an alliance’
Morrison stressed on the fact that the Quad is “not an alliance”, refuting claims made by Beijing after the summit that the grouping is playing up and inciting a China threat theory.
“The Quad is about like-minded democracies, together with Japan and the United States, coming together to demonstrate that such democracies and economies can deal with the world’s biggest challenges and make a positive difference… This is not an alliance. It is a practical partnership of like-minded, scaled democracies and economies that can actually bring stability and growth and prosperity to our region… The Quad is not an alliance, it’s not a formal alliance, it’s not designed to be an alliance,” he emphasised.
Morrison also said the Quad is now going to go “deeper into critical and emerging technologies, and particularly rare earths, and the supply chain for rare earths and critical minerals that runs right across to the end, to the end user”.
India, Australia focused on trade deal
On Australia’s economic ties with India, Morrison said the two countries are now looking at reviving the talks for having a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), even as he stressed that both sides will have to be “patient and sensible”.
Australian trade minister Dan Tehan is visiting India currently and will be holding talks with Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal to revive talks on the CECA, the negotiations for which were formally launched in 2011.
“This has always been a challenge. And we understand the challenges in India and the challenges in Australia in ensuring that we can get the right deal. We want the right deal for both countries.
“And, so we’ll continue to be patient about it and take the gains where we can take them and see this as a road that we’re on and we will just keep adding and adding… to the strength of that Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement that we’re seeking. And this all builds off the India Economic Strategy update that will also identify new opportunities,” Morrison said.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)