Jaishankar said Quad has issues like maritime security, connectivity, vaccines and even education on its agenda
India shares with the G-7 group of developed countries its view that development projects should be transparent, environment friendly and should not saddle recipient countries with debt, Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the Qatar Economic Forum, a three-day virtual event held in association with Bloomberg under the banner of “New Horizons for Tomorrow," Jaishankar said that this was an “area where we feel there is a lot of convergence with the G7. We look forward to working with them."
The reference was to the “Build Back a Better World (B3W)" initiative – seen as a “values-driven, high-standard, and transparent infrastructure partnership" led by major democracies to help narrow the $40 trillion infrastructure need in the developing world, that the G-7 feels has been exacerbated by the covid-19 pandemic." Launched at this year’s G-7 meet earlier this month, the B3W initiative has at its core an argument that the world needs to present an alternative to Chinese president Xi Jinping’s multi-billion dollar infrastructure Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI has been slammed for saddling countries with debt and not being sensitive to the environment needs of the countries where the projects have been developed. The loans extended by China to countries joining the G-7 have been seen as coming with strings attached that were not specified at the start.
In his remarks, the minister pointed out that India’s development partnership programme – under which it extends assistance to countries to create infrastructure and skill people among other initiatives – dates back a long time. India has development projects 62 countries and out of 630 projects, had completed 340, the minister pointed out.
Answering a question on China and the Quad and how the grouping of the four nations – US, India, Japan and Australia – has influenced India’s response to China amid tensions between the two countries, Jaishankar said that the Quad has issues like maritime security, connectivity, vaccines and even education on its agenda. “They (Quad) have their own agenda, a set of convergences, a world view," the minister said drawing a distinction between India-China ties and India’s ties with the Quad countries.
“The India China issue has pre-existed the Quad," the minister said adding that “it is a challenge or a problem that is independent of the Quad." The reference to the India-China issue was an allusion to the bilateral problems New Delhi has had with Beijing for decades due to their undemarcated border. The undelineated border between the two countries has been a source of friction though the two sides have concluded at least five pacts to ensure border-related problems can be quickly resolved. The tensions, dating back to last May when India discovered intrusions by Chinese troops into areas it sees as lying within its territory, have however continued for more than a year despite many attempts at resolving it through dialogue. Jaishankar has previously said that India-China ties were at a “crossroads" given Beijing’s reluctance to honor the bilateral agreements aimed at stabilizing the border. Ties between the two countries could not normalize amid such tensions and the armies of the two countries standing eye ball to eye ball, the minister has said previously.
In his remarks on China on Tuesday, Jaishankar said that the “close-up deployments still continue" on the borders. “The issue there is whether China will live up to the commitments it had made written commitments its has made," he said.
China on its part views the Quad as an effort to circumscribe its influence in the Indo-Pacific and has described it as an “Asian NATO" or likening it to a military alliance.
To a question whether he had received any assurances from the US on vaccines, Jaishankar said that the world did not have vaccines and to cater to the demand of production, it was important that patents be waived as well as the supply chains of ingredients for manufacturing the vaccines be kept open. The world’s demand of vaccines could not be met without India scaling up and for that the US and countries in Europe needed to keep supply chains open, he stressed.