In­dia should be an im­por­tant player in re­gional se­cu­rity

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE -

Moves to res­ur­rect the Quadri­lat­eral Se­cu­rity Di­a­logue, which brought Aus­tralia, the US, Ja­pan and In­dia into an “Asian Arc of Democ­racy” in 2007 be­fore it was un­wisely scut­tled by the Rudd govern­ment, have drawn fire from Bei­jing. Aus­tralia’s uni­lat­eral with­drawal from the so-called “Quad” in 2008, a weak-kneed re­sponse to Chi­nese pres­sure, saw the di­a­logue moth­balled. At the time, In­dia also was con­cerned about China’s re­sponse to what it per­ceived as the re­gion’s democ­ra­cies gang­ing up against it.

On the side­lines of the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions and East Asia sum­mits in Manila, the first steps were taken to­wards a “Quad re­dux”. As the De­part­ment of For­eign Af­fairs and Trade said in a state­ment, there is a need to dis­cuss “a shared vi­sion for in­creased pros­per­ity and se­cu­rity in the Indo-Pa­cific re­gion and to work to­gether to en­sure it re­mains free and open”. Of­fi­cials are ex­am­in­ing how to up­hold “the rules-based or­der in the Indo-Pa­cific and re­spect for in­ter­na­tional law, free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and over­flight, in­creased con­nec­tiv­ity, co-or­di­na­tion on ef­forts to ad­dress the chal­lenges of coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism and up­hold­ing mar­itime se­cu­rity in the Indo-Pa­cific”.

The need for the re­gion’s democ­ra­cies, in­clud­ing In­dia, the world’s most pop­u­lous democ­racy, to work to­gether is in­con­tro­vert­ible. Im­por­tant strate­gic in­ter­ests are at stake as China as­serts its eco­nomic and mil­i­tary mus­cle. The co-op­er­a­tion seen pre­vi­ously, when the Quad coun­tries joined in mil­i­tary ma­noeu­vres known as Ex­er­cise Mal­abar, have greater sig­nif­i­cance given Chi­nese ex­pan­sion­ism in the South China Sea and China-In­dia bor­der ten­sions

Bei­jing re­mains bit­terly op­posed to the Quad con­cept, ac­cus­ing the four na­tions of “politi­cis­ing and ex­clud­ing rel­e­vant par­ties” — a ref­er­ence to it­self.

While pre­vi­ous US ad­min­is­tra­tions spoke of an “Asia-Pa­cific” con­cept, Don­ald Trump, in a sig­nif­i­cant change of em­pha­sis dur­ing his 12-day re­gional visit, re­ferred re­peat­edly to the “In­doPa­cific”. Re­con­sti­tut­ing the Quad will take time. Once in place, it must not be dis­carded as it was un­der Mr Rudd.

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