QUESTION : In the phase of rising uncertainty in geo-politics, examine the relevance and implications of Quad grouping.
Topic- A NEW DIMENSION
- Militarization Of QUAD And India
WHY IN NEWS ?
Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat stated on Thursday that India believes the Quad would be a “good mechanism” to “ensure Freedom of Navigation Operations” (FONOPs)in the Indian Ocean and surrounding oceans including the Indo-Pacific.
HIGHLIGHTS REGARDING THE “QUAD”
- Australia’s request has been pending for four years, to join the annual Malabar exercises with India, the U.S. and Japan.
- China’s poses fierce opposition to the militarisation of a coalition seen as a counter to its claims in the Pacific and inroads in the Indian Ocean.
- At the Shangri-La Dialogue, Indian Prime Minister had said that India sees the Indo-Pacific as a “geographical concept”, not a “strategy or a club of limited members”.
- India is the only country in the Quad that shares a land boundary with China, and the militarisation of the Quad will not help India deal with that threat.
- Unlike the U.S., Japan and Australia, which are tied by military alliances, India is a member of other strategic forums, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation with China, Russia and Central Asia, BRICS and RIC, which appear to be at cross purposes with a Quad alliance.
COUNTERING TWIN CHALLENGE :
- The threat from Pakistan will be mainly in the form of a proxy war but any threat develops around our northern borders, Pakistan could take advantage and create some trouble there.
- As far as China is concerned, there were border management protocols signed from 1993 onwards that have been modified continuously, but of late, some aggressive actions by China have been seen.
- Chinese economic cooperation with Pakistan in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, along with continued military, economic and diplomatic support, mandates high levels of preparation and also poses the threat of coordinated action on the Northern and Western fronts.
WHAT IS QUAD ?
- It is an informal strategic dialogue between India, USA, Japan and Australia with a shared objective to ensure and support a “free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region.
- The idea of Quad was first presented by the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007. But the idea at that time couldn’t move ahead with Australia pulling out of it, apparently due to Chinese pressure.
- In November 2017, India, the US, Australia and Japan gave shape to the long-pending “Quad” Coalition to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence especially due to rising dominance of China in the region.
QUAD NATIONS AND CHINA :
USA: USA had followed a policy to contain China’s increasing influence in East Asia. Therefore, USA sees the coalition as an opportunity to regain its influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
o The US has described China, along with Russia, as a strategic rival in its National Security Strategy, National Defence Strategy and the Pentagon’s report on Indo-Pacific Strategy.
Australia: Australia is concerned about China’s growing interest in its land, infrastructure and politics, and influence on its universities.
o Taking into account its overwhelming economic dependence on China for prosperity, Australia has continued its commitment to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with China.
Japan: In the last decade, Japan has expressed concerns related to China’s territorial transgression in the region.
- China’s Territorial Claims: China claims that it has historical ownership over nearly the entire region of South China Sea, which gives it the right to manufacture islands. However, the International Court of Arbitration rejected the claim in 2016.
- China’s Closeness to ASEAN: The ASEAN countries also have a well-knit relationship with China. The Regional Cooperation Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a recent example of China’s increasing influence over ASEAN nations.
- Economic Power of China: Considering the economic might of China and the dependence of Quad nations like Japan and Australia on China, the Quad nations cannot afford to have strained relations with it.
- Convergence among Quad Nations: The nations in the Quad grouping have different aspirations, aims at balancing their own interest. Therefore, coherence in the vision of Quad nation as a grouping is absent.
SIGNIFICANCE FOR INDIA :
- The suggestion is that India is now prepared to join Quad military patrols, which marks a departure from its earlier reticence and public statements by the leadership.
- The Indian Navy has not taken part in any joint patrols outside of the Indian Ocean, and even within it, held its first one, with France, only recently.
- In terms of the engagement with the Quad, India has not yet formally announced a decision to include Australia in the annual Malabar exercises with the U.S. and Japan, although it is expected to do so.
- By joining the quad India has taken a significant turn in its policy for the subcontinent.
- It gives New Delhi a powerful platform to advance its interests in East Asia, coordinate strategies with powerful friends and add more strength to its Act East initiative.
- The geostrategic term “Indo-Pacific” as opposed to “Asia-Pacific” has been gaining currency.
- It will deepen India’s ties with US, Australia and Japan with benefits in diplomatic leverage and sharing.
- Working with US and its allies in the Asia-Pacific will provide New Delhi significant leverage in shaping US policies in Afghanistan-Pakistan to the benefit of India.
QUAD A REFLECTION OF MULTI-POLAR FOREIGN POLICY :
Though India is part of Quad, it is not a formal alliance or any security architecture against China. Moreover, alliances are not even feasible in this globalized world based on complex interdependence. But QUAD membership reinforces India’s multi-polar foreign policy as:
- India is associated with several forums such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), BRICS etc.
- The other members of these grouping face some sought of strategic competition from USA, but India has managed well to maintain strategic autonomy which is a pillar of multi polar world order.
- China’s assertion in South China Sea (SCS) compromises freedom of navigation. Through QUAD India seeks to reassert rule based world order to counter China’s growing power and assertion.
- Democratic, Cooperative and Peacekeeping endeavour: The QUAD initiative is group of four largest and powerful democracies in the world which values democratic, peaceful, rule based international order.
- India held that the Quad was more about sharing democratic experiences than a security arrangement directed at China.
MILITARISATION OF THE QUAD AND ITS EFFECT ON CHINA :
- However, the move from conducting exercises together to joint operations would take time, something that makes the CDS’s assertion significant.
- It is easy to surmise that his contention that the Quad operations are needed to ensure there is no “fear of any other nation singularly trying to dominate the oceans”, is a veiled reference to China.
- It is also clear that the LAC tensions and clashes, as well as the PLA’s refusal to implement border agreements, have convinced New Delhi that new strategies will be required to deal with Beijing.
- S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh have spoken of the importance of a resolution through talks, there is no doubt that an outcome of the tensions will be a strengthening of India’s ties with global powers such as the U.S., as well as formations like the Quad.
- An indication of this is the government’s plans to host a ministerial-level meeting of the Quad in the next month, possibly when the India-US “2+2” meet of Foreign and Defence Ministers is held.
- While India considers its options, it is necessary to remember some of the reasons for its reticence in terms of militarising the Quad in any way.
- Prime Minister Modi said in 2018 that India sees the Indo-Pacific as a “geographical concept”, not a “strategy or a club of limited members”, and it would be important to know whether that formulation has changed.
- India is the only Quad member not already tied in a treaty alliance with the others, and Mr. Jaishankar’s statement that India would never be part of any “alliance system” would run counter to what the CDS suggests.
ABOUT MALABAR EXERCISE :
- Malabar is an annual military exercise between the navies of India, Japan and the U.S. held alternately in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
- The annual Malabar exercise started in 1992 as a bilateral event between the navies of India and the United States.
- It was expanded into a trilateral format with the inclusion of Japan in 2015.
DO YOU KNOW ?
- Australia’s inclusion would be seen as a possible first step towards the militarisation of the Quad coalition, something Beijing has opposed in the past.
- Japan and US have been keen on Australia’s inclusion and have been pushing India to consider it.
MARITIME SECURITY :
- The IOR is fast becoming one of the most crucial geopolitical and economic areas of the world and there has been a rise in security concerns. The Indo-Pacific region holds immense geo-political and geo-strategic significance for navies around the world.
- Expanded participation in Malabar will help strengthen regional maritime security arrangement in the Indo-Pacific region.
- The primary aim of the exercise is to increase interoperability amongst the navies as well as develop a common understanding and procedures for maritime security operations.
- There is the need for careful thought on India’s moves with respect to the quadrilateral engagement. India should reflect on the strategic rationale of the military-Quad.
- There should be a cost-benefit exercise and any move should lead to commensurate gains in the strategic-operational realm for India.