Recently concluded QUAD in Tokyo, Japan (23-24 May, 2022) leaves several questions unanswered. However, the level of synergy among the QUAD members (US, Japan, India and Australia) was at the highest pitch. The joint statements released by the QUAD members are well polished. From the body language one can also gauge that the QUAD leaders (US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida) are enthusiastic, energetic and would really do something substantial to safeguard Indo- Pacific regions from the bullies of China.
It should also be noted that all the leaders of the QUAD intentionally refrain from mentioning directly the name of China in their statements. It shows that all the QUAD member countries know very well the burgeoning military capacity of China. The strategy of the QUAD member countries is to contain China in the Indo-Pacific regions. Among the QUAD members, it is the USA that is provoking other QUAD members (India, Australia and Japan) to openly condemn China and its assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific regions and participate aggressively in military exercises.
Street protests in Japan by anti-war groups during the QUAD Summit in Tokyo, affirm that there is a voice against the US President Joe Biden and its war policies across the world. The representatives of anti-war groups are against Japan –US military alliance which can exacerbate tensions in East Asia. It is also true that the people of Japan have not forgotten the atomic attack by the USA in 1945 on Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Their anger against the war-mongering USA would remain forever.
As the world knows that the bilateral relations between US-China are deteriorating continuously. Both the nations are trying hard to harm each other politically and economically. The crushing restrictions and heavy taxes levied by the US administration on China could not disturb China much economically. Rather, the Chinese propaganda machinery of the Chinese Communist Party succeeded at the international level in making other countries believe that the USA administration wanted to dominate the world in all respects. Those who do not succumb to the whims of the USA administration, they are bound to perish. For example Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Cuba, Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovia, Yugoslavia. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan alleged that the USA had hands in overthrowing his government. Former vice-chairman of the CIA Graham Fuller publicly admitted that the CIA of the USA has brought down unwanted governments in coups around the world and replaced them with either military juntas or puppet governments.
The dominance nature of the USA created trust deficit among the allies. At present, the countries in the European Unions (EU) are not interested to waste their sources and resources over war. The eco-structure in the majority of the EU countries is on the verge of collapse particularly after the pandemic of Coronavirus. The QUAD members are very much aware of the dominant nature of the USA. The QUAD members also know very well that there is heavy cost involved in going to war against China or any other country. That is why Australia and Japan seem to be playing safely in the QUAD given the formidable clout of China in the Indo-Pacific regions. In the current situation, Australia and Japan cannot afford to offend China as Chinese companies have invested heavily in both the countries. A study by KPMG and the Business School, University of Sydney found that Chinese firms invested US$600 million in Australia. Japan is china`s third trading partner Japan`s investment in China was about $2 billion. So, both the countries have limitations to contain China in the Indo-Pacific regions.
In the case of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not communicated to Chinese premier Xi Jinping since India-China stand -off in 2021. There is a political deadlock between the two countries. Recently, the Ministry of External Affairs of India confirmed that China is building a second bridge on the Pangong Tso Lake. As of now, it seems India is caught between the devil and the deep sea. BJP MP Subramanian Swamy sarcastically tweeted, ‘it is quite clear that Modi has decided not to confront China to recover our territory’. Rahul Gandhi, MP, Indian National Congress (INC) said that, ‘China knows that PM Modi is afraid of them.’ Modi did not oppose Chinese intrusion. After the QUAD Tokyo Summit, the statement of Indian EAM Dr. Jai Shankar said that ‘India is not ready to give other countries a veto on our choices.’ It shows that India is worried about the military diplomacy of the USA. In the case of Russia, India is already bearing the brunt of the US administration. There is a constant pressure from the US administration on India to stop import of oil from Russia.
From the current situation in the Indo –Pacific regions where China is expanding its military tentacles, it seems India is living in fool`s paradise and it’s diplomats have no clue how to tackle china`s belligerence not only in Indo –Pacific regions but also in Ladakh region. The fact is that if India ignores the US administration it would pay heavy price in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan- trio is important due to its geographical proximity to India. Militarily, China has an edge over India. It is also true that India largely depends on Russia, USA, Israel and other technologically advanced countries for modern weaponry including killing machines, fighter jets, battle tanks and nuclear-powered submarines. Over the last 8 years, India under Modi could not develop Military Industrial Complexes (MIC). More than 70% of India`s defense purchases are from firms in Russia, Israel, Europe and the US. According to Global Firepower (2021), China has 21, 83,000 active personnel and 510,000 reserves troops while India has 14, 44,000 and 21, 00,000. In that case, if India dares China it would possibly pay a heavy price like 1962 war.
China has made strong footprints in most of the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries through ‘Cheque Diplomacy’ whereas India is lagging behind. India is making enemies with or without attention. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party (BJP) abrogated Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir in 2019. There was strong reaction from Indonesia and Malaysia- countries in the Indo-Pacific regions. Similarly, Beijing is found to be siding with Pakistan about the disputed territory of Kashmir. The Modi government launched ‘Security and Growth for all in the Region’ (SAGAR) in 2015 to focus on cooperative measures for sustainable use of oceans. On SAGAR, C Uday Bhaskar, is a retired Commodore in the Indian Navy, raised two important questions in his article – Will Beijing agree to become a stakeholder in Narendra Modi’s SAGAR vision? Or are we on the cusp of a new era of Great Power rivalry in South Asia? Despite several foreign trips by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to various countries, Western countries are distrustful of India. PM Modi has faced criticism from Western allies with regard to its refusal to outright condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin over the devastating conflict in Ukraine. India joining anti-China coalitions would further derail the Indian economy and heighten border disputes on the (Line of Actual Control (LAC). It is unfortunate that the Modi government is ambitious in countering China`s tactical moves and strategic game plan in the Indo-Pacific regions but the confusion prevailing among the Indian diplomats is drowning this ambition. The majority of the Indian diplomats follow sheepishly or respond in a polite language what the US administration or the Western world want them to say. It is also a fact that the majority of the Indian diplomats or officers in the Indian External Affairs ministry have no freedom or independent decision making capacity as compared to diplomats of China and other advanced countries. Having this kind of slavish mentality, India would never be in a position to win over China or become a Vishaw Guru.
Some experts state that the newly launched Indo-pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) are nothing more than over-hyped talking shops. Time will tell how paper-tiger groupings undermine China`s influence in the Indo-Pacific regions by unveiling the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Marine Domain Awareness(IPDMA) to prevent illegal fishing by China. Emerging trust deficit among the QUAD members shows that they would prove Beijing`s prophecy that QUAD would dissipate like SEA FOAM.
Dr. Rahul Kumar, Ph.D. in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi (India), is an independent researcher. His area of interest encompasses diplomacy, foreign policy and international relations. The views expressed in this article are personal.