Melbourne, May 8 : The worst foreign policy decision that the Rudd Government has made was to abolish the quadrilateral security dialogue between the US, Japan, India and Australia, says an editorial in The Australian.
According to the editorial, regional resentment continues to build up, both at the decision itself, and more especially at the way it was made.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith made two statements cancelling the quads, one in Tokyo and one in Australia, at a joint press conference with Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi.
"I have spoken to a lot of people in the Asia Pacific about this and it's clear to me now that it was something of an iconic moment: to announce what you were doing with three friends in the company of a fourth who didn't want you to do it looks like, sounds like, is in fact, a mild form of appeasement," said the author of the editorial, Greg Sheridan, who is the foreign editor of the paper.
He said that even Japan's leading journalist, Yoichi Funabashi, the editor-in-chief of Asahi Shimbun newspaper, had a measured view about the quads themselves, thinking that they could have been a useful idea but were pursued in a half-baked fashion.
But he described Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith as "not the best diplomat" and that he should have been more skilful in formulating his comments.
"I think Foreign Minister Smith was too blunt, and if the result is that he has effectively excluded other options, this is quite unfortunate," he added.
"Given the ferocious Indian reaction which I reported on Saturday, it begins to look as though the Rudd Government, in order to suck up to Beijing, has incurred quite a bit of utterly gratuitous damage with Japan and India. And that's frankly pretty dumb," said Sheridan.
He further went on to say that the concern that the Rudd Government is obsessed with China and neglectful of other Asian relationships also exists among Southeast Asian leaders.
"But among strategic and official circles these decisions, and the China obsession more broadly, is playing very badly. I promise you I'm not exaggerating this. People say a lot more privately than publicly, but even what they say publicly is indicative enough," he concludes.