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Quad is to Check on Chinese Assertiveness in Indo-Pacific by Jai Kumar Verma

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Article Courtesy: Raksha-anirveda

Article 22/2021

A summit of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD, also known as the Quad) was held on March 12. Quad which is an informal strategic dialogue between the United States, Japan, Australia, and India discussed regional and global issues and also agreed that Indo-Pacific region should remain free and open to all. Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated, “Quad has come of age and will remain an important pillar of stability in the Indo-Pacific region.” He also mentioned that it is an expansion of India’s principle of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’.

Besides Indian Prime Minister, the meeting was also addressed by US President Joe Biden and others. Biden asserted that “The Quad is going to be a vital arena for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and I look forward to working closely with all the leaders.”

The South China Sea as well as East China Sea are not only important for global trade but also possess lot of minerals including oil. The world at large including Europe, US, India, Japan, and other countries are concerned about the expansionist designs of China. Beijing asserts authority over South China sea, but the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Brunei also put counterclaims. However, interventionist China has constructed men made islands and now militarising these islands. In East China Sea Dokdo/ Takeshima island is administered by South Korea but claimed by Japan while Senkaku/ Diaoyu is claimed by China but administered by Japan.

In reality US, the lone super power, has not put any claim on this area, but it is participating in Quad and also contested Chinese territorial claims and the deployment of warships and fighter jets in the area. US understands that China is progressing very fast and mineral rich South and East China Sea are important areas hence Beijing must be stopped initially.

Quad is important for India too as it can counter the aggressive designs of China at the land as well as maritime borders. China has built its first overseas base in Djibouti and its undesirable activities in Indian Ocean has alarmed India, Japan, and other countries. In 2007 Shinzo Abe, the then Prime Minister of Japan, had proposed about Quad but it could not be materialised as Australia under pressure from China refused to join it. However, in December 2012 Shinzo Abe again proposed it and in November 2017 India, US, Japan, and Australia established Quad with specific purpose to keep the Indo-Pacific free from any interference of any power, especially China.

Importance of Quad

It was on the sidelines of the summit of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held in Manila when four countries India, US, Japan, and Australia constituted Quad. The basic objective of Quad is to keep Indo-Pacific region free and open so that no country can dominate it. Free and open Indo-Pacific region is beneficial, and it will serve the long-term interest of all the countries. The Quad was needed so that the belligerence and monopolisation of China can be restrained through the joint effort. The Chinese aggressiveness was increasing not only in South China Sea, but it was also threatening India and Bhutan on land borders.

Quad will also handle the rising problem of terrorism and nuclear proliferation. It will also deal with the nuclear and missile programme of North Korea. As US and Japan are the members of Quad the various developmental projects of other countries can be financed.

The four-nation strategic alliance is important for India as through it New Delhi can expand its interests in East Asia. It will also strengthen its relations with US, Japan, and Australia. Better relations with US will be advantageous as it may safeguard India’s interest while formulating policies towards Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region while India can also take advantage of Japan’s technological advancement and its deep pockets. That apart, in case of Chinese incursion on Indian borders, members of Quad would come for India’s assistance.

Japanese foreign minister suggested that Britain and France should also join Quad, however, it may not be beneficial at this stage. Inclusion of US and Japan in the region through Quad would diminish the significance of India. China wanted to open its diplomatic mission in Bhutan but India blocked it. However, if US also like to open its consulate in Bhutan it will be difficult for India to avert it. India objected the presence of Chinese navy in Sri Lanka but now it will not be feasible to stop the presence of US and Japanese naval ships. It appears that the global alliance will change India’s regional aspirations. The analysts also claim that India is becoming a part of US China rivalry which may not be beneficial for the country.

The world Bank, Asian Development Bank and other international financial organisations should liberally fund the infrastructure projects in the region so that the dependence of the smaller countries can be reduced on China and they do not fall in the debt-trap of China. At present China is very aggressively promoting Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and several countries are falling prey to it. India and Japan have discussed about “Asia-Africa Growth Corridor” and now both countries with the help of US and other financial institutions should start implementing it. India should continue emphasising its neighbourhood first policy which is very useful.

China is strengthening itself very rapidly and it is dangerous for India. In reality India needs countries which may help it against China. Indian and Chinese forces are fighting at the borders as China is illegally occupying Indian territory and still claims much more areas. China helps Pakistan against India on Kashmir issue. On Cross border terrorism US tries to put pressure on Pakistan while Beijing favours Islamabad. China blocks India’s membership in Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) as well as permanent membership in UN Security Council. US helps India at both these associations. China is selling finished goods to India and balance of payment is exceedingly in favour of China. India may try to diversify its economy through Quad. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) weakens India’s territorial sovereignty, and it increases undue influence of China. In last India needs US and others to counter rising Chinese influence and assertiveness.

However, China is very critical of Quad and alleges that it is parallel to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Asia region. Beijing is also critical of Quad as it wanted to dominate the maritime space in South and East China Seas which is much more important than capturing some areas in Himalayas. South and East China Seas are also important as bulk of Chinese trade passes from there. The daily tabloid, Global Times, which is published under the aegis of Chinese Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily is known for fabrications and disinformation, mentioned in an article in March this year that India’s coalition with US, Japan and Australia is a “negative asset” for the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). The paper further mentions that for India, Quad is a contradiction and it will worsen its relations with China and Russia. The paper further alleges that India took the advantage of BRICS on terrorism etc. and now through Quad is trying to ‘blackmail’ China while US will use India against China.

Quad is very important for the world especially for India as it may work as a check on the expansionist designs of China. Nonetheless the members of Quad must explain its mandate that the alliance is for securing the economic and security interests of all the countries. The littoral states must be convinced that Quad is for the regional benefit and it is not a military alliance as propagated by China. Countries like Indonesia and Singapore may be invited to join Quad. As India needs to play an important role in the region, a new division may be created in Ministry of External Affairs to deal with the Indo-Pacific region. The MEA should also formulate a comprehensive policy about the existing and forthcoming maritime challenges.

(Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based strategic analyst and member of United Services Institute of India and Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. The views in the article are solely the author’s own and do not reflect the views of C3S. He can be contacted at editor.adu@gmail.com)

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