The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is a useful instrument for India to further its interest in a “free, open, and inclusive” Indo-Pacific, the country’s former national security adviser has said.

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, is an informal strategic forum maintained through semi-regular summits, information exchanges, and military drills among the US, Japan, Australia, and India. The group held its first summit on Friday, with US President Joe Biden saying a “free and open Indo-Pacific is essential.”

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Shivshankar Menon said last week’s Quad summit is a “significant step forward” in solidifying the partnership among the four countries which share “values and a common vision for the Indo-Pacific.”

“The leaders have agreed on a program of concrete cooperation on significant issues such as technology, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic, apart from raising the level of dialogue on the situation in the region as a whole,” he said, adding that these are “important advances.”

It was less than two months into Biden’s presidency when the US hosted the first Quad summit on Friday. Menon said the first multilateral meeting hosted by Biden showed the “significance of the Quad and the Indo-Pacific in today’s geopolitics.”

The ace diplomat also said the Quad is “a useful tool” for India to further its interest in a “free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific, rule-based, and plural,” and that India’s Quad partners share the same vision.

“As maritime democracies with a common interest in freedom of navigation and maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, it is natural that we will work together in the Quad to realize those goals,” he said. “It is up to China to make up her mind on how she chooses to see the Quad and its work.”

While China was not explicitly mentioned in a joint statement released by the leaders after the summit last week, it was squarely the target with its maritime policies in the region that have included manufacturing islands to expand its sovereign territorial claims at the cost of its neighbors, particularly Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, as well as Taiwan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the summit that the Quad will remain an important “pillar of stability” in the Indo-Pacific region.

Asked if he sees the group becoming a formal organization and if there are any chances of its expansion, the former diplomat said the Quad has evolved from an official dialogue to a summit of leaders as its role and utility has grown.

“Its future form and institutionalization should be determined by its work and requirements. As its members have made it clear, the Quad is ready to work with others in the pursuit of its goals, which are actually public goods contributing to the stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific,” he said.

To another question, if the Quad has capabilities to deliver alternatives to the Chinese investment, the former national security adviser said, it is not an “alternative to China.”

“As its members have made clear, they have their own interests, values, and shared vision of the Indo-Pacific and the Quad is an instrument to further those,” he said. “In this work, it will naturally work with others in the region, and respond to changes in the situation around us,” he noted.

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