India is in the driver’s seat of the Quad, while the US is in the seat next to it with the corrective steering wheel, US ambassador Eric Garcetti said.
The Quad is a diplomatic network of four democracies—India, the US, Australia, and Japan—committed to supporting a free and open, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific that is inclusive and resilient.
“India is very much in the driver’s seat of the Quad…maybe America is in the next seat with the corrective steering wheel; I think Japan has been an avid navigator from the beginning and Australia is really excited to be back in the car and asking if everybody has enough to drink and eat, and where we are going,” Garcetti said, while speaking at the 17th edition of Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF).
“So it is a great time and we love these different roles. I want to sit in the back some other time and relax. But it is in some ways up to India to most forcefully define what we want to do with the Quad,” Garcetti added.
He was speaking at a session, “Heart of the Matter: Quad and the new Indo-Pacific Vision,” on Saturday with former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Australian high commissioner Philip Green, Japanese ambassador Hiroshi Suzuki, and former foreign secretary Shyam Saran.
The session was moderated by journalist Suhasini Haidar.
The four members of the grouping first met under the Quad in 2007 but it did not see much activity due to protests from China. It was reactivated in 2017 as concerns increased over China’s growing role in the Indo-Pacific.
Hailing the Quad as a “model for the world,” Garcetti said it is “very strong and stable”—not just in geometry but in diplomacy as well.
“Bilaterals are always engaging but the two countries get a little bored of each other when it is just direct,” he added.
Likening the grouping to a “dinner party”, he said, “It is like a dinner party. Invite three people, it gets more interesting; four people, now you have a party, when others want to come to the party… now you know you have got something special.”
The US envoy, however, added that the four countries do not always agree on every issue.
“We can talk about domain awareness in the Indian Ocean that is actually commencing and moving forward. Space projects that are actually not talk but actually probably as robust as any place on earth. So I don’t think it is a talk shop but it is also not ever going to be a place where ‘Hey! How are we all going to vote at the United Nations together,” he was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.
The former governor of Los Angeles claimed that multilateral institutions such as the UN “don’t have much efficacy”.
During the discussion, Turnbull said one should look at how far the Quad has come since its inception, rather than reflecting on why it hasn’t turned into a “whole strategic alliance”.
Turnbull was instrumental in reviving the Quad in 2017 amid the growing Chinese threat in the region.
Calling the Quad a case of “same bed, different dreams,” he said, “The point is some of our dreams are different but we have a lot of dreams in common, and they are the ones that Shinzo Abe defined in his original vision.”
“Countries that are committed to freedom… doesn’t mean that they are going to agree on every issue but it does mean that they can stand together to defend freedom, sovereignty, and the openness that democracy demands,” Turnbull added.
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