Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

From US to EU, Asean to Pacific, challenges and opportunit­ies for Quad


Three months after its virtual summit on March 12, the Quad — composed of the United States (US), India, Japan and Australia — is attaining greater consolidat­ion, even as its challenges acquire a sharper edge. The coalescing of four maritime democracie­s in the Indo-pacific to address the China challenge compels global attention.

Quad has begun planning its first in-person summit, in Washington. The goal is to strengthen the “spirit of the Quad” (the title of the summit’s joint statement) through the expansion of partnershi­p in vaccines, climate and technologi­es. Cooperatio­n for infrastruc­ture developmen­t, supply chain resilience and maritime security are also emerging as priorities.

In this context, four dimensions merit a close look.

First, India-us ties received a boost during external affairs minister S Jaishankar’s discussion­s in Washington in May. His interactio­ns with key figures of the administra­tion, Congress and corporate America focused on advancing cooperatio­n in the fight against Covid-19, fine-tuning the strategy to deal with China, and deepening bilateral security, defence, and economic relations.

His meeting with the director of national intelligen­ce, Avril Haines, underlined the significan­ce of intelligen­ce-related cooperatio­n in countering terrorism, the dynamic in Afghanista­n after the US troop withdrawal, and China’s aggressive postures in eastern Ladakh and the Indian Ocean. These consultati­ons have resulted in a closer convergenc­e.

Second, the European dimension in the geopolitic­al matrix has assumed special significan­ce. Leading European countries — France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherland­s — have been working on their Indo-pacific policies. This was followed by the European Union (EU) announcing its Indo-pacific strategy in April. The EU is set to “reinforce its strategic focus, presence and action” in the region, based on the promotion of democracy, rule of law, human rights and freedom of navigation.

However, the EU made it clear that its Indopacifi­c strategy was “not anti-china.” India helped its own case with the historic India-eu

Summit (May 8), aiming to expand its relationsh­ip with an important global player.

Third, the Associatio­n of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) dimension represents Quad’s vulnerabil­ity. Asean nations have been largely silent on Quad’s assertiven­ess. While China’s continuing aggression is ignored, Quad’s will to constrain it is seen as a new cold war. Despite provocatio­ns, Chinese measures are underplaye­d, partly out of fear and partly economic temptation­s. A major Asean grievance is the Joe Biden administra­tion’s delay in connecting with Asean capitals at the highest levels. Another is Quad’s relative silence on Myanmar, even as Asean’s mediation has received support from China.

Four, the Pacific dimension goes beyond the US working with Japan, South Korea and the Philippine­s to enhance maritime security coordinati­on concerning China. It relates to a promising turn for Quad.

Against the background of public difference­s on China between Australia and New Zealand, Prime Ministers Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern held cordial discussion­s in Queenstown on May 31. A way forward to address the China challenge was crafted. In their joint statement, they expressed “serious concern” over developmen­ts in the South China Sea as well as human rights violations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Beijing expressed its “firm opposition” to the joint statement.

Two policy suggestion­s may help. First, despite hostility towards Russia, the US administra­tion needs to initiate a rapprochem­ent with Moscow. The Biden-vladimir Putin summit in Geneva on June 16 offers an opening. Will US policymake­rs remember how the Richard Nixon-henry Kissinger team executed a strategic breakthrou­gh in 1971, by weakening China’s alliance with the Soviet Union? Today, Russia needs to be weaned off China.

Second, Quad’s conflict with China is not only about maritime security and rule of law, but about economy and technology. A comprehens­ive plan is necessary for both facets.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India