Riva Ganguly Das, Secretary (East) at the External Affairs Ministry led the talks for India while Mark Sinclair, Deputy Secretary, Americas and Asia Group in New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade represented his country (Image courtesy: India Embassy in New Zealand)
Senior diplomats from India and New Zealand met online on Monday to discuss closer cooperation for a rules-based international order and a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, echoing the template of the QUAD grouping.
India, United States, Japan and Australia comprise the Indo-Pacific QUAD, which has already held a summit meeting.
Australia’s maritime neighbour New Zealand, along with South Korea and Vietnam, have already partnered the QUAD+ mechanism that was established to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. Analysts point out that given its geography and history of security cooperation with Australia and the US, New Zealand would be a natural candidate for a formal QUAD+ line up in areas that go beyond health.
Incidentally, Australia, New Zealand and US were at one time active members of the ANZUS Treaty – an agreement signed in 1951 to protect the security of the Pacific. However, New Zealand’s heavy economic reliance on China is likely to dissuade Auckland to unconditional participation in QUAD+ in the short run, unless the grouping also evolves to establish new supply chains that are not reliant on Beijing.
During their talks led by Riva Ganguly Das, Secretary (East) at the External Affairs Ministry and by Mark Sinclair, Deputy Secretary, Americas and Asia Group in New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, also discussed the possibility of working together in different areas, including defence and security, trade and investment, space, counter-terrorism, cyber security, disarmament and climate change. They are proposing strengthening the people-to-people ties.
The two also brainstormed the response to Covid-19 pandemic and access to vaccines and medicines for containing the pandemic globally.
Aware that the many Indo-Pacific countries would not like to take sides between China and a coalition of democracies, the QUAD leaders have been amplifying the humanitarian dimension of the grouping. After their first summit in March, QUAD members stressed the grouping had emerged following the collaboration of the members after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. They have spotlighted QUAD’s fundamental principles as democracy, a rules-based order, and a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.