Quad no grand solution to China challenge : The Tribune India

Join Whatsapp Channel

Quad no grand solution to China challenge

It is quite clear that India, the US, Japan and Australia are contesting China’s claim over South China Sea and speaking up for open sea-lanes and conformity to norms of international law. Indirectly, the US wants to create a cordon sanitaire so that China does not threaten the territorial claims of the Philippines and Vietnam, and that Beijing does not act rashly against Taiwan.

Quad no grand solution to China challenge

CONTAINMENT: The Quad is seen as an attempt to invent a Cold War by confronting China. Reuters



Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr

Senior Journalist

The first formal and virtual summit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, United States President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, marking the beginning of the Quadrilateral — Quad, for short — on March 12 has its share of historical irony for India and the US. Fifty years ago, in 1971, the US was reaching out to China through Pakistan. In August of the same year, India signed a friendship treaty with the Soviet Union to counter the US presence in the Indian Ocean and the brewing trouble in the then East Pakistan. The Seventh Fleet of the US was then deployed and the treaty with the Soviet Union survived the test. But by 1981, the Indo-Soviet bonhomie fell by the wayside with India quietly ticking off the Soviet presence in Afghanistan.

Fifty years later, India and the US find themselves huddled together, ranged against none other than China. Doublespeak is indeed the essence of diplomatic-speak. So, an explicit reference to China got elided, and replaced by Indo-Pacific, a configuration created by the Trump administration in its national strategy document to expand the traditional American sphere of Asia-Pacific.

The question remains whether India’s strategic interests stop with South East Asia and does not extend to the Far East. It will be argued that India is now a middle-rung global power and its sphere of influence will stretch far beyond its traditional bounds.

It is quite clear that India, the US, Japan and Australia are contesting China’s claim over South China Sea and speaking up for open sea-lanes and conformity to norms of international law. Indirectly, the US wants to create a cordon sanitaire for China, so that it does not threaten the territorial claims of the Philippines, of Vietnam, and that Beijing does not act rashly against Taiwan. China, on its part, recognises the constraints imposed by the US presence in South China Sea.

This is indeed a classic power tussle between a rising China and an America that is in a pile position no doubt, but it is not the superpower that it was in the 1950-80 Cold War period. American strategists have been looking for a justifiable cloak to challenge China. That is why, the Quad is projected as the coming together of democratic powers challenging communist China, and inventing a new Cold War.

The inaccuracy in configuring the new confrontation in terms of the ideology of democracy fighting an anti-democratic and communist China is quite evident. China is communist only in name. It is an Asian nationalist power, and resembles Japan after the 1905 Russo-Japanese war, and possibly India occupying a similar position in the next quarter of a century. China should be learning from Japan’s experience, and India should be looking at the consequences of nationalist hegemony.

It is true that in war and diplomacy, you should not be looking too far into the future and you should not be weighing in too many factors. Strategy, even a grand strategy, should be a short-term one. It makes sense for India then to make common cause with the US, Japan and Australia to contain — something which is to be assumed and not articulated — China.

But India has to factor in whether as a member of the Quad, it can hope to check China’s depredations across the unsettled border and the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries, and whether the other members of the Quad would feel compelled to stand with India.

Indian strategists react in alarm when these issues are raised. They feel that it would be premature to let the cat out of the bag that the Quad is an anti-China military alliance. The assumption is that the Quad should be a pressure group, and that it should not include the military option. Militarism is seen as a crude weapon which should never be flaunted.

But the Quad cannot function as a goodwill club of democracies in the Indo-Pacific. And it cannot be confined to the four members because all the four are peripheral to the affected region. The Quad would have to expand sometime to include the ASEAN countries as well as South Korea. And it should also include the Asia-Pacific Economic Community (APEC).

If the old groupings are to be reworked to meet the China challenge, there would be need for wider consultations. Meanwhile, China has been spreading its wings in western and Central Asia, Africa and the European Union. It is not confined to the South China Sea. It is quite possible that China might be spreading itself too, both in security and economic terms. And it will have to come to terms with the other global players.

The grand strategy behind the formation of the Quad looks quite inchoate. While the Quad members should improve their mutual relations, each country will have to deal with China all on its own.

China is not a military superpower as the Soviet Union was in the old Cold War scenario. It is wielding its economic clout. Can the Quad clip China’s economic wings? The economies of the US, Japan and Australia do not seem too promising to meet Beijing’s economic challenge. It is felt that India will have to do the ‘heavy lifting’ in this economic tussle.

Prime Minister Modi and his advisers believe that this is something India can do with the help of the other three. It is as good a gamble as any, and it is unexceptional as well. Shorn of its rhetoric, the Quad looks like a slightly desperate business plan. There must be other ways of dealing with China’s economic domination. The Quad, however, is not an effective response to China’s military assertion unless the navies of the members patrol the sea-lanes in South China Sea, keeping in mind China’s claims over Taiwan and its assertion over Hong Kong. The Quad is a necessary ploy, but it should not be seen as a grand solution to the changing contours of a multi-polar world.


Top News

Replicate Kashmir-type ‘zero terror strategy’ in Jammu: Shah to forces

Replicate Kashmir-type ‘zero terror strategy’ in Jammu: Amit Shah to forces

Holds meet on J&K ahead of Amarnath Yatra, Army Chief among ...

Forces adopt multi-pronged strategy to counter threat ahead of Amarnath Yatra

Forces adopt multi-pronged strategy to counter threat ahead of Amarnath Yatra

Search operations continue | Perpetrators of Doda, Reasi ter...

‘Alarming’: Opposition jabs Punjab CM over 14 drug abuse deaths

‘Alarming’: Opposition jabs Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann over 14 drug abuse deaths

Narcotics coming via BJP-ruled Gujarat, Maha, says AAP


Cities

View All