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Quad ‘undefined entity’, no plans of expansion, says US Deputy Secretary of State Biegun

Biegun’s remarks, made at a media teleconference, come at a time when the Quad countries are increasingly aligning with each other in their effort to stand up against China.

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New Delhi: The multilateral Quad, or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, remains an “undefined entity”, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E. Biegun said Tuesday, adding that there are no plans to expand it from the current format.

Quad comprises US, India, Australia and Japan as members.

Biegun’s remarks, made at a media teleconference about his Delhi trip this month, come at a time when the Quad countries are increasingly aligning with each other in their collective effort to stand up against China.

According to Biegun, “there is no designed policy” for an expansion of the Quad to make it a Quad-plus arrangement. The arrangement still remains an “undefined entity” and these countries are coming together due to “natural affinity” under the larger Indo-Pacific construct, he added.

Referring to a so-called Quad-plus meeting held this May, which also included South Korea, New Zealand and Vietnam as participants, Biegun said it was meant to strengthen cooperation in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

Biegun, who concluded a visit to India and Bangladesh last week, said Washington is not immediately planning to invite Seoul to be part of the Quad arrangement even though the US has close ties with South Korea.

As of now, he said, the understanding among all Quad countries is to bring in their respective expertise across various fields — from economic to security cooperation — “in the face of global challenges”.

Also read: India keen to ‘leverage’ US focus on its neighbourhood as they stand up against China

Quad gets more teeth 

On Monday, India finally invited Australia to rejoin the India-US-Japan Malabar naval exercise, giving more teeth to the Quad in its strong messaging against Beijing.

During his visit to India, Biegun had said that while India and the US are not looking at a NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) kind of alliance, New Delhi and Washington are now “fundamentally aligned” even as China remains the “elephant in the room”. 

The foreign ministers of the Quad countries met in Tokyo on 6 October. During his address at the meeting, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar pitched for “territorial integrity, sovereignty and peaceful resolution of disputes”. 

He also said bilateral ties between India and the US have been “accelerating” and that every US President has contributed towards bettering the relationship.

Also read: Maldives to Moscow — India prepares for brave new Biden world after Modi-Trump bonhomie

China has done ‘very little’ on Rohingya issue

Highlighting his visit to Dhaka, where he reached after wrapping up his trip to New Delhi, Biegun said he did discuss the issue of repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar with the government of Bangladesh.

All those countries that believe in a free and open Indo-Pacific should seek to speak on this issue with the Myanmar government since China has done “very little” on this matter considering their “closeness” with Nay Pyi Taw, he added.

While he was in Bangladesh, Biegun had described the nation’s government as “generous” for accommodating Myanmar’s Rohingya refugees, but added that the issue of their repatriation is “not simply the responsibility of the government of Bangladesh”.

The refugees camps in Bangladesh currently accommodate an estimated 1 million Rohingyas.

“This is a global priority and one that every major country in the Indo-Pacific should be speaking with equal outspokenness to the government of Myanmar to take the steps necessary to ease this crisis,” he said

In August, during a trip to Dhaka, Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla had also discussed the Rohingya issue with the Bangladesh government and assured them that India will take up the matter with Myanmar.

Shringla, along with Army chief General M.M. Naravane, visited Myanmar earlier this month and discussed the matter at length with the government there. 

Also read: What a Friday Iftar looks like at a Delhi Rohingya refugee camp during lockdown


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