July 16, 2018
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Quad can alter geopolitics in Indo-Pacific region
The formation of quadrilateral axis among US, India, Japan and Australia may have rattled China briefly but the axis will take years before it could really be reckoned with. Before the Quad can be true a force multiplier, all four nations need to have proper mechanism and develop understanding of the situation including geography and culture. India has been facing problem due to rise of China which is no more peaceful rather threatening to its interests all over the continents. India neve paid much attention to Chinese power politics because it had the comfort of no border tension with Beijing along the Line of Actual Control. Even the Prime Minister Narendra Modi just few months ago said that there is no shot fired along the LAC for last 50 years. But this comfort of China not being a bullying power in Asia is going away. Many Indian policy makers think that China is now a rouge power than what it used to preach in public. It is a new normal. These days, counties are only pursuing their national interests not working for any global order. It is not feasible as all powers are corrupt or immoral beyond a point. Thus, Quadrilateral dialogue not only has a security dimension but also focuses on achieving political and economic objectives. However, the involvement of India in this and also the involvement of three external powers may appear to give a negative impression on other parties. It is necessary for these parties to tread carefully before concluding any dialogue and cooperation not aggression is the true word for the Quad initiative. India should adopt a cautious approach for some time.

Indeed, there is a history behind forming such a forum. In fact, Quad as a strategic dialogue was first mooted by Prime Minister Shinjo Abe of Japan in 2007. He was supported by Dick Cheney, Vice President United States, John Howard, prime minister of Australia and Manmohan Singh, the then Prime Minister of India. The US, Japan and India were already engaged in trilateral Malabar exercise since 2002. However, later Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, mainly on account of his ambivalence over growing US-China tension in Asia-Pacific, left the quad in 2008. But now Australia wants to return as China threatens its interests in Asia. Diplomacy is all about taking moves which serve the best self-interests of a country. In last decade, the balance of power is shifting in Asia-Pacific or Indo-Pacific and emerging circumstances have led Australia to shrug off its reluctance and take more assertive stance. China’s assertive behavior in South China Sea has caused concerns among almost all states. Australia’s location is such that affects peace and security in Indian and Pacific Oceans has direct impact on the entire Australian continent. Meanwhile, over reliance on China for trade is an uncomfortable but necessary situation with most countries around the world. Some of them see some opportunity in India but engagement with India is questionable due to low scale trade compared to China. Also India is not a P5 member which can play a global role at the moment.

The plan to expand Quad is already in the working. Singapore may join Quad at a later stage. While the coming together of the four powers is understood, there are also controversies of Britain and France’s involvement in the dialogue. They are extra-regional powers although trying to have military stronghold in the Indo-Pacific region. One reason for seeking their involvement could be the unreliability of US. Witnessing the recent bubble burst of USA and its uncertainty in terms of plans and policies, these two powers can come of help. The other point is that these two European powers still have a focus on Russia than on China which can be of utility in case of a military threat.

Although, the quadrilateral grouping will bring developmental projects and economic prosperity but India’s dominance in its neighborhood will be further eroded. Furthermore, in the name of cooperation India may concede a seeding ground seeding ground to Japanese & US Navies in Sri Lanka. Lastly, India must not neglect its neighbors and should try to balance its relations rationally. The government’s new plan to involve the U.S. and Japan in development projects in South Asia will yield the necessary finances that should not come at the cost of India’s leverage in its own backyard. Even if the US grants India status to access its bases, the US will benefit more from India than India can from US. This is because India does not have a global geopolitical reach or objective at the moment.