|Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi. File photo|
New Delhi: Ahead of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit on 15-16 September in Samarkand, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to come face to face with China’s President Xi Jinping, New Delhi is ready to host an official-level meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), a grouping consisting of India, the United States, Japan and Australia. The meeting, which is called Senior Officers’ Meeting (SOM), is not going to be any ordinary and customary discussion session for top officials of the member countries of the grouping, but will give the participating officers an opportunity to delve deeper into the issues related to China’s growing aggression in the Indo-Pacific and other geographies, top diplomatic sources told The Sunday Guardian. One of the top agendas for the upcoming interactive session is going to be Chinese belligerence. Economic matters, global food security, health security, Covid-19 challenges, Ukraine war, etc., will be the other key issues which will also be discussed.
Top officials from security and diplomatic establishments in New Delhi, with their counterparts from Tokyo, Canberra and Washington will be fine-tuning strategy to deal with China’s challenges. “What comes out of the meeting will go into documents that will be discussed during Quad Summits in future,” officials involved in preparation for the upcoming session told this newspaper. Significantly, India-US 2+2 inter-sessional meeting will also take place after the Quad SOM meeting this month. So, this session in Delhi will also prepare ground for India-US separate interactions, the US delegation for which will be led by Donald Lu, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia.
With PM Modi and Xi Jinping set to be present at the SCO summit in Samarkand, the Quad SOM discussing ways to rein in Beijing’s belligerence will be a message to the Chinese leader, says a diplomat. The Quad SOM meeting is slated for 5-6 September, following which Prime Minister Modi will be briefed on the outcomes of the interactions, sources said. PM Modi will be travelling to Samarkand a week after this event in New Delhi, sources added. Since the Quad SOM deliberations are going to be held in the backdrop of US’ tensions with China over Taiwan, Beijing’s larger agenda of violating international laws and disrespecting territorial integrity of the other countries will come up during the discussions, sources said. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is going to dominate the SCO summit in Uzbekistan in mid-September will also figure prominently in the Quad SOM deliberations. Sources said Indian officials would reaffirm India’s position that it is with peace and with the efforts to end human sufferings due to the Russian military operations.
The Ukraine issue will be important because PM Modi may have a bilateral with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will also attend the SCO summit in Uzbekistan. Of all the Quad countries, India is the only state that has not joined US and EU sanctions against Russia. “India’s position on sanctions against Russia hasn’t changed one bit,” says a diplomat. “The Quad officials will also review the progress in a number of Quad initiatives that were discussed during the Quad summit in Tokyo in the month of May,” sources said. “Definitely, China’s aggression along LAC and with that Beijing’s offensive actions in violation of international laws will figure during the talks,” say officials. There is no confirmation as yet on whether President Xi and PM Modi will have a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Uzbekistan, sources said. However, New Delhi will continue to use every single opportunity to send out a strong message to China over its violation of written pacts and agreements on respecting territorial integrity, add sources.