Quad slams nuclear threats as ‘inadmissible’ in India huddle



Quad slams nuclear threats as ‘inadmissible’ in India huddle

U.S., Japan, India, Australia ministers urge Ukraine peace; Lavrov lashes out

From left, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar attend a Quad panel discussion at the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi on March 3.   © Reuters

KIRAN SHARMA, Nikkei staff writerMarch 3, 2023 16:52 JST

NEW DELHI — Foreign ministers from the Quad grouping of the U.S., Japan, India and Australia on Friday declared that threats to use nuclear weapons are “inadmissible” while discussing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar hosted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and their Japanese and Australian counterparts, Yoshimasa Hayashi and Penny Wong, for a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue meeting in New Delhi. The huddle came the morning after talks among Group of 20 foreign ministers ended without a joint communique due to differences concerning the Ukraine war.

“We continued to discuss our responses to the conflict in Ukraine and the immense human suffering it is causing,” the Quad members said in a joint statement released afterward, adding that the four sides “concurred that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin last month suspended a key nuclear arms control treaty and raised the possibility of restarting nuclear tests. Late last year, he said the risk of nuclear war was growing, though he also vowed not to use nuclear weapons first and insisted his government had not “gone mad.” He and his allies have appeared to make several thinly veiled nuclear threats since the Ukraine invasion began in February 2022.

The Quad members also underscored the need for “a comprehensive, just and lasting peace” in Ukraine in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Charter. The four ministers emphasized that the rules-based global order “must respect sovereignty, territorial integrity, transparency and peaceful resolution of disputes.”

The carefully worded statement did not name Russia. Of the Quad grouping, India is the only one that has not explicitly condemned Moscow, a longtime ally and weapons supplier.

At a “Quad Squad” session of the Raisina Dialogue security conference just after the meeting, Blinken was more direct. “If we allow with impunity Russia to do what it’s doing in Ukraine, then that’s a message to would-be aggressors everywhere that they may be able to get away with it too.”

Later in the afternoon, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov attended the same forum, organized by the Observer Research Foundation and the Indian Ministry of External Affairs. He lashed out at the criticism and argued Moscow’s actions were justified.

“We defended our security, we defended the Russian people who had been denied by [Ukrainian President] Volodymyr Zelenskyy the right to use Russian language in education, in media, in culture, in everything,” he said.

Lavrov also suggested that the Ukraine conflict was being used to hijack multilateral platforms. At Thursday’s gathering of G-20 top diplomats, he said, “Our Western friends were shouting [on] microphones, ‘Russia must, Russia must, Russia must,'” he complained. Developing countries’ “delegates were also saying, ‘We want to stop the war, when Russia is ready to negotiate?'”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends the Raisina Dialogue on March 3.   © Reuters

Lavrov complained that “the entire G-20 [meeting] was only about what to do with Ukraine and the final declaration.” He said he asked current chair India and previous host Indonesia whether the grouping had ever reflected conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan or Yugoslavia in its declarations.

“These days … there is nothing except Ukraine which is of interest for G-20,” Lavrov said.

The Quad, to be sure, did have other interests in mind when the ministers met on Friday, particularly issues concerning the Indo-Pacific region the four members encircle. “Where we are very like-minded, I think, we have a view about attributes of the region we inhabit,” Australia’s Wong said of the grouping in the Raisina panel discussion.

Again without naming names, the Quad’s statement reiterated support for “freedom of navigation and overflight” and opposed “any unilateral attempt to change the status quo” — an oblique but obvious reference to China’s efforts to expand its influence.

The ministers also expressed their “consistent and unwavering support” for the “centrality and unity” of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and called for the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.

In their Raisina Dialogue session, the ministers emphasized that the Quad is not designed for military cooperation and is not aimed at opposing anyone. “We don’t try to exclude anybody — this is an open architecture,” Japan’s Hayashi said, after jetting to India for the meeting despite missing the G-20 talks.

Responding to a question on China, he advised Beijing to “just abide by the international law, international institutions.”

As long as China does that, he suggested, there would be no “conflicting issue” between China and the Quad.

The quartet’s appearance on the Raisina stage was often lighthearted as well. At one point, they discussed how the Quad is somewhat, but not exactly, like the Beatles. Asked to share outcomes of the ministers’ behind-closed-doors meeting, Jaishankar noted that they had agreed on a counterterrorism working group as well as closer cooperation with the Indian Ocean Rim Association and efforts to ensure that United Nations processes are respected.

“I was personally happy that there was a stronger expression of support by all of us collectively to the reform of the U.N.,” he added. And he said the foursome had agreed that sustainable development goals should be “pursued comprehensively, not cherry-picked for political convenience.”




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