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New Delhi: Amid reports that US had proposed an expanded ‘Quadrilateral Security Dialogue’, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun clarified the country’s stand saying it was “premature” to look into such a proposal.

‘No designed policy for Quad expansion’

The comment comes a day after India invited Australia to participate in the Malabar naval exercise 2020, completing the Quad military alliance which was pending for years.

On Tuesday, in an interaction over the phone, to a question of whether the Quad grouping would consider including South Korea into the alliance, Biegun said, “There is no designed policy for Quad expansion that is being advocated by the US. In the Indo-Pacific the United States has some mutual defense agreements certainly with partners like Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, and Thailand; that our relationships with other countries in the region include cooperative actions like military exercises, co-development and sales of defense equipment. And also, I want to importantly underscore that the real value that the genesis of the Quad is cooperative action in areas of security. The Quad is still a somewhat undefined entity in and of itself, and thus it would be premature to even talk about the question of expanding the Quad.”

Adding further that the future plans might include cooperation with other countries in the region, for the time being the focus of the Quad should be to regularise the grouping and create a set framework.

“I think there’s an opportunity certainly under the in the U.S. view under the Indo-Pacific strategy for close engagement among many, many other partners, including other countries in South Asia like Bangladesh and countries in ASEAN nations as well. I will say that it is our view that in the passage of time, the Quad should become more regularized and at some point formalised as well as we really begin to understand what the parameters of this cooperation are and how we can regularise it,” he said.

Contradictory to statement at India-US fourm

This comes days after his visit to India where he engaged the leadership on various counts ahead of the 2+2 ministerial meeting which is to be held on October 26-27.

Vastly contradictory to what he said during this interaction, on October 12 at the India-US Forum event organised by the Ananta Centre he had said, “The Quad is a partnership-driven by shared interests, not binding obligations, and is not intended to be an exclusive grouping. Any country that seeks a free and open Indo-Pacific and is willing to take steps to ensure that, should be welcome to work with us.”

Pushing for an expanded Quad to secure the Indo-Pacific, he had further said, “Together we stand for a pluralistic vision that will ensure that our countries, and all the region’s diverse countries, can thrive as sovereign and prosperous nations in a free and open Indo-Pacific. One might call this a vision of a Pax Indo-Pacifica, a region at peace, protected and made prosperous in equal measure by those who comprise the Indo-Pacific,”

This comes just days after the ministerial level ‘Quadrilateral Security Dialogue’ was held in Tokyo among foreign ministers of Australia, India, Japan and the United States of America.

For now, it seems like the Quadrilateral nations want to focus on how to get the alliance going and once the framework is set will they consider any sort of expansion.

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