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India in 'driver's seat' of Quad, says US envoy Eric Garcetti

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US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti speaking at the 17th edition of Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF)

US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti speaking at the 17th edition of Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF)

Jaipur: US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti said India is in the “driver's seat” of the Quad, while America is in the seat next to it with the “corrective steering wheel”, and added that it is up to India to "forcefully define" the nature of the diplomatic partnership.

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Garcetti, speaking here at the 17th edition of Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), used a rather unique analogy of 'eating, drinking and sharing a ride together' to explain the different roles of member countries in the Quad.

The Quad is a diplomatic partnership between India, the US, Australia, and Japan to deepen economic, diplomatic, and military ties among the four countries.

"India is very much in the driver's seat of the Quad...maybe America is in the next seat with the corrective steering wheel, I think Japan has been an avid navigator from the beginning and Australia is really excited to be back in the car and asking if everybody has enough to drink and eat, and where we are going.

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"So it is a great time and we love these different roles. I want to sit in the back some other time and relax, but it is in some ways up to India to most forcefully define what we want to do with the Quad," said Garcetti on Saturday in a session, "Heart of the Matter: Quad and the new Indo-Pacific Vision".

The 53-year-old said the Quad can be the "model for the world" as it is "very strong and stable", not just in geometry but in diplomacy as well – more than multilateral institutions such as the UN, which he claimed “don't have much efficacy”.

"Bilaterals are always engaging but the two countries get a little bored of each other when it is just direct," he added.

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Garcetti used another analogy to explain his point better. "It is like a dinner party, invite three people, it gets more interesting, four people, now you have a party, when others want to come to the party... now you know you have got something special," he explained.

Though he admitted that the Quad is not a group where the four member countries agree on every vote in multilateral institutions, Garcetti asserted it is not a "talk shop" either.

He gave examples with the kind of work being done by the member countries on semiconductors, artificial intelligence and space projects.

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"We can talk about the domain awareness in the Indian Ocean that is actually commencing and moving forward. Space projects that are actually not talk but actually probably as robust as any place on earth. So I don't think it is a talk shop but it is also not ever going to be a place where 'Hey! How are we all going to vote at the UN together," he pointed.

Former Australia PM Malcolm Turnbull, who was also part of the panel discussion, said one should look at how far the Quad has come since its inception in 2007, rather than reflecting on why it hasn't turned into a "whole strategic alliance".

He called the Quad to some extent a case of "same bed, different dreams".

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"The point is some of our dreams are different but we have a lot of dreams in common, and they are the ones that Shinzo Abe defined in his original vision.

"Countries that are committed to freedom... doesn't mean that they are going to agree on every issue but it does mean that they can stand together to defend freedom, sovereignty and the openness that democracy demands," Turnbull, one of the key people behind the reinstatement of the Quad in 2017, added.

The Quad group, which had first met in 2007, went into cold storage after protests from China. It was reinstated in 2017 -- after a gap of 10 years -- in the face of China's growing assertiveness in world affairs.

Australian Ambassador to India Philip Green and former foreign secretary Shyam Saran also participated in the session.

The JLF 2024, touted to be the "biggest literary festival in the world", will see participation of the world's best thinkers, writers, and speakers till February 5.

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