India’s foreign minister puts the country’s foreign policy impact on display by stating that there is an ignorance or lack of understanding of the Indian mindset in certain global pockets by linking India to military alliances.
Refusing to compare the Quad to other organisations like the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) for example, Jaishankar reiterated the essence of this grouping stating, the Quad would not "become another" NATO but the alliance is a common platform looking at unmet demands in the market. Clearly, there is more to this unity than just defence and security and Jaishankar was emphasising that fact. The short answer, on comparisons to NATO, according to the foreign affairs minister was a resounding “no.”
Speaking on the sidelines of the All India Management Association National Leadership Conclave, Jaishankar reasoned that since independence, India has stayed away from alliances. "The people who use that NATO kind of analogy either do not understand us at all, where we are coming from and what our independence means to us. The explanation I have is complete ignorance or the lack of understanding of the Indian mindset or they are using these words to discourage us," he said.
"Think of quad as a common platform for four important players who actually are looking at the unmet demands of the market... It's reasonable in international relations for countries that have a common interest to work together. I would not exaggerate this to create that image of NATO military alliance because that has never been India's heritage," he added.
The four countries had in 2017 given shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the "Quad" to counter China’s aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region. More recently, US President Joe Biden and his team consisting of Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor (NSA) Jake Sullivan – conducted vigorous consultations with their respective counterparts from Quad countries.
There is clear discomfort from the Chinese side on this bloc of nations and their presence in the Indo-Pacific. China has been critical of this by stating recently that, "Building small circles in the name of multilateralism is in fact 'group politics'." Along with diplomatic engagements, Quad countries also engage in military and naval exercises, freedom of navigation, and rule-based order is the key principle of this informal grouping.It is not just the four Quad nations who have committed to the interest of counterbalancing China’s presence in this territory – the UK and France have also decided to join the group in order to leverage their commercial and security interests.
India and France carry enough heft as global economies and this similarity has brought them together – apart from the very high-profile defence deals – in recent times to strengthen the bonds of collaboration and cooperation. According to a report in Asialyst, Paris is the ninth biggest foreign investor in India, while 120 Indian companies are present on the French market. This is reflected through bilateral economic and trade relations in innovation and start-ups, in health and biotechnologies.
France’s presence in the sub-continent is categorised by extremes – while French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian received a grand welcome in India (April 13-15), Paris was instructing its nationals to leave Pakistan due to protests across the country and a threat to French interests in Pakistan. This inspired Olivier Guillard, to observe in an analysis in the Asialyst, "Why is the Franco-Indian strategic partnership in full swing, while relations between Paris and Islamabad are at their lowest?”
To boost ties further India’s Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, Chief of the Air Staff embarked on a five-day visit to France (April 19-23) on an invitation from Gen Philippe Lavigne, Chief of Staff.
The visit was to explore potential avenues for strengthening the level of interaction between the two Air Forces," the IAF tweeted.
The icing on the cake of Indo-French ties would have been Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s now presumably cancelled visit to Paris and Portugal from May 8. A final decision is yet to be taken, but Modi was set to visit Portugal for the crucial India-EU summit on May 8 and France for bilateral talks with French president Emmanuel Macron. Diplomatic sources stated that “We are working with the European institutions and the Government of India to conduct the summit by video-conference, with the EU [leaders] physically present in Portugal."
There is also the pending high-profile virtual interaction between Modi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson, following the latter’s cancellation of a much-publicised visit to India due to the rise in Covid-19 infections. When these high-profile interactions do take place, they will once again showcase India’s influence and heft on the world stage.
- Inputs from ANI