Quad meeting: Bright future for an anti-Chinese colossus or failure?
Besides US Secretary of State Blinken´s and US Secretary of Defense Auistin´s visits in Asia, Blinken´s Anchorage meeting with the Chinese coutnerparts, another important event was the Quad meeting between the USA, India, Australia and Japan. While the Indian and the US think that it was a successful meeting, the mouthpiece of the CCP Global times claims that the US didn´tget their hoped-for anti-Chinese containment coalition as India and Australia refused officially to call China a common rival and that there was no joint document defining China as the officical counterpart. .Therefore we want to document three voices regarding the Quad meeting. First Indian former General Asthana who thinks that the Quad meeting made China nervous:
Quad Summit 2021: Forward Trajectory Disturbs China!
Author: General Major (ret.) Asthana
Quad’s call for a free, open, inclusive, healthy, Indo-Pacific region during Summit and its follow up, is making China nervous.
· Quad’s determination for collective response to COVID-19 pandemic in terms of synergizing vaccination efforts to roll out one billion vaccines by 2022, attracted global attention.
· Quad in its present form may not be structured to check Chinese adventurism, but it seems to be on right trajectory to become one of the most effective instruments to do so.
The visit of US Secretary of Defence to India, along with Japan and South Korea within a week of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) Summit held on March 12, 2021, indicates a quick follow up. The Summit did not name China directly, but Beijing seemed nervous and rattled about the event, as its mouthpiece Global times accused Quad members to be hyping the „China threat“ before the event and expressed that India will not go US way due to its own ambition and economic dependency on China, after the visit. Apparently, China saw a major challenge to its dream of China Centric Asia Pacific, in Quad’s call for a free, open, inclusive, healthy, Indo-Pacific region that is „anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion„. China’s hope that the four-country group hasn’t formed a cohesive force from within, may need a revisit, after the Quad leaders agreed to give joint statement, committed to holding an in-person leaders‘ summit by the end of 2021 and agreed to pursue important agendas through three focused working groups.
Benign Agenda but clear Trajectory
Besides unanimity in need for free, open rules-based order, rooted in international law to advance security and prosperity and counter threats to both in the Indo-Pacific, the key agenda which attracted global attention was collective response to COVID-19 pandemic in terms of synergizing the vaccination efforts for humanity, with India as manufacturing hub, assisted by others to roll out one billion vaccines by 2020. The other two issues of working groups being emerging critical technologies and climate change. The agenda seems benign, but Beijing did not miss the connection of freedom of navigation, overflight and the concerns over “aggression” and “coercion” against members of Quad by China in its first summit meeting. No-one during the Summit called out China directly, but China knows that it challenged rule-based order by junking PCA’s decision in South China Sea (SCS) and continues to coerce countries in Indo-Pacific region.
The list of shared challenges to be addressed also includes cyber space, critical technologies, counterterrorism, quality infrastructure investment, and humanitarian-assistance and disaster-relief (HADR), some of which echo Chinese alleged involvement like cyber attacks and transparency of World Health Organization. Quad’s assertion to support the rule of law, freedom of navigation, overflight, democratic values, and territorial integrity has added to frustration of Beijing, which has started firing salvo of propaganda through its mouthpiece Global Times, calling India (the only Non-NATO partner) as “Negative Asset for BRICS and SCO” failing to understand Chinese goodwill! Quad’s announcement of forthcoming naval drills of Quad plus countries and willingness of some NATO members like UK, France and Germany, to join in responding to challenges in Indo-Pacific, has further added to discomfort of China, indicating forward trajectory of Quad.
China overplays Divergences in Quad
China will like the world to believe that there are wide divergences in four democracies getting together, but in the evolution process, Quad seems to be getting over some of them. There is much more acceptability regarding divergent definitions and focus areas within the Indo-Pacific region. With the series of foundational agreements like COMCASA, BECA, LEMOA and CISMOA signed between US and India, and naval exercises, the inter-operability of India with other Quad members, operating within NATO military alliance framework, has improved. The joint statements of Defence Ministers of US and India on March 20, 2021 indicates convergence in approach and intention to have better defence cooperation between both countries in line with Quad commitments and strategic partnership.
India is the only country amongst Quad members, which has unsettled land border with China. After Doklam and Ladakh standoffs, it’s quite clear to Indians that China can’t be trusted, which has brought relatively better clarity in Indian position. The economic entanglement of each of the Quad members with China necessitates a resilient supply chain, digital and technological eco system, with minimal dependence on China. There has been consensus regarding support for ASEAN’s centrality in the Indo-Pacific as well, but their inclusion into it will be a debatable issue, due to Chinese influence over them. China has always tried to deal with every country on bilateral terms, using its Comprehensive National Power (CNP) to its advantage and will continue to do so even with Quad members.
Countering Chinese Challenge?
The ‘Incremental Encroachment Strategy’ of China exhibited in SCS, East China Sea (ECS) and Ladakh is a serious concern not only to the countries directly affected by overlapping EEZ or unsettled borders, but also to rest of the world, as China continues to convert features/atolls into military bases, expect others to accept them as islands and apply ‘Baseline principle’ under UNCLOS-III to claim its 200 nautical miles of EEZ thus converting SCS into ‘Chinese lake’ over a period of time. It poses threat to freedom of navigation (FON) and flight along global Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) and may lead to some restrictions like Air Defence Identification Zone in SCS. Any such action by any country to restrict FON/flight or violation of rule of law must be challenged in UN Security Council backed by Quad. All members of Quad except US have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III); hence US needs to ratify the same, to have a moral high ground to implement it.
China seems reasonably confident that US or any other country will not use military force to dismantle their infrastructure constructed in SCS. It is also increasing its naval capability at unprecedented pace. In this context it is necessary that Quad strengthens itself beyond Malabar exercises, gets some teeth in the form of maritime capacity building of its members and capacity to dominate choke points sensitive to China, as it’s not a military alliance so far. Quad will therefore need a formal structure and a secretariat to take it forward.
Way Ahead for Quad
COVID-19 vaccines will be manufactured in India, financed by the US and Japan with logistical support from Australia. The intention of Quad to synergise medical, scientific, financing, manufacturing, critical emerging-technology and developmental capabilities in future, is a step in right direction. Sharing of innovative technology and capacity building for climatic challenges will serve the interest of humanity and make Quad an effective grouping.
Quad members must continue freedom of navigation exercises and military posturing in Indo-Pacific, as China continues to do so. If the strategic situation worsens there may be a need to position ‘UN Maritime Military Observers Group’, as prevention of accidental triggering of conflict is possible in a region having high density of combat ship on FON missions.
The Summit did not signal expansion, but it needs to have flexibility to incorporate like-minded democratic countries, as many would be keen to join Quad in future, because Indo-Pacific region is becoming the global economic centre of gravity and manufacturing hub. Support of other navies like France, UK, Germany and other NATO members will be good deterrence to peace spoilers. Quad in its present form may not be structured to check Chinese adventurism, but it seems to be on right trajectory to become one of the most effective instruments to do so. Chinese aggressive reactions during meeting of top officials of US and China indicates that Quad has put China on notice, without even naming it, forcing it to showcase its strong stance to domestic audience behind nervousness.
Major General S B Asthana
(The views expressed are personal views of the author, who retains the copy right). The author can be reached at Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ as Shashi Asthana, @asthana_shashi on twitter, and personnel sitehttps://asthanawrites.org/email email@example.comLinkedIn Profilewww.linkedin.com/in/shashi-asthana-4b3801a6Youtube linkhttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl50YRTBrOCVIxDtHfhvQDQ?view_as=subscriber
Much more optimistic than the Indian general is Jeff Smith from the Heritage Foundation in his article “The Future of the Quad is bright”who speaks of an emeriging anti-Chinese colossus:
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue today exists as a forum for annual meetings among officials from Australia, Japan, India, and the United States.
It will be interesting to see how the president intends to use the Quad to strengthen the regional security architecture.
With India involved at a higher level of strategic coordination, this potent democratic triangle becomes a quadrilateral colossus.
FuAn attempt to organize a quadrilateral grouping of Indo-Pacific democracies in 2007 proved to be short-lived. The revival and reinvigoration a decade later of what is termed the Quad was a key foreign policy success of the Trump administration.
Sparked by shared concerns about China’s rise and its increasingly aggressive foreign and national-security policies, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue today exists as a forum for annual meetings among officials from Australia, Japan, India, and the United States. It is a platform to discuss common challenges and promote greater strategic cooperation.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, it was an open question whether candidate Joe Biden would sustain the Trump administration’s commitment to the Quad. Although the initiative enjoyed support from a broad cross-section of U.S. national security experts and three of America’s key partners in the region, the Obama administration had shown little interest in the Quad. Might a President Biden break with the initiative, or at least substantially alter it, returning to the more accommodating patterns established by President Obama?
It appears not. In just its first few weeks in office, the Biden administration has arranged a Quad foreign ministers meeting and an unprecedented Quad leaders summit. On Feb. 18, the top diplomats of the four democracies met for a virtual ministerial meeting of the Quad. It was a welcome development, although not entirely unexpected. In the weeks before the meeting, senior Biden administration officials had praised the group and its critical role in advancing U.S. interests and strategy in the Indo-Pacific.
On Jan. 29, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said of the Quad: „We really want to carry forward and build on that format, that mechanism, which we see as fundamental, a foundation upon which to build substantial American policy in the Indo-Pacific region.“
In his Feb. 8 phone call with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Biden agreed to promote a „stronger regional architecture through the Quad.“ That was a new formulation. It will be interesting to see how the president intends to use the Quad to strengthen the regional security architecture.
After February’s ministerial meeting, the various readouts from the four governments mirrored previous statements from the group. They emphasized a shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and a rules-based order; support for ASEAN centrality and freedom of navigation; and a pledge to enhance cooperation on COVID-19 responses, counterterrorism, maritime security, humanitarian aid, climate change, supply chain resilience, cybersecurity, and more.
Notably, each Quad member also expressed concern about the recent military coup in Myanmar and affirmed their support for a democratic transition there. The group also committed to meet at least annually at the ministerial level.
Last week, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the leaders of the four Quad countries would hold the first-ever Quad summit in a virtual meeting expected to convene later this month. Such a summit would mark yet another substantive step forward for the group of democracies, sending a powerful signal to foreign and domestic audiences that the Quad enjoys the endorsement and support of the highest levels of leadership. Morrison suggested face-to-face meetings would follow the virtual summit and become a regular feature of Indo-Pacific diplomacy.
A Quad summit would represent the culmination of a remarkable two-year stretch for the group. In 2019, the four capitals “upgraded” the Quad: In addition to annual meetings at the working level (assistant/joint secretary), that year a second Quad meeting was held at the ministerial level (foreign minister/secretary of state). Mid-ranking diplomats and embassy officials from the four democracies also meet periodically in non-Quad countries. In 2019, the group further broadened its agenda to include a joint counterterrorism exercise.
In 2020, the Quad countries held their first quadrilateral naval exercise in over a decade. Last year also saw the emergence of a Quad-Plus group of seven countries—adding South Korea, Vietnam, and New Zealand—that organized over regular videoconference calls to coordinate responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Remarks this month from the British High Commissioner to India suggested the United Kingdom is amenable to joining the Quad if the group ever decides to open its membership. Finally, the Australian government has sponsored a new program at the Australian National University to establish a “Quad tech network” to promote collaboration among think tanks and research institutes from the four countries on cybersecurity and critical technology issues.
Just as the Biden administration appears to be going all-in on the Quad, so too is cornerstone of the democratic grouping. It is perhaps no coincidence the Quad met against the backdrop of another crisis in China-India relations, and another standoff at their disputed border. While it appears headed toward at least a limited de-escalation, this crisis was unlike the numerous border crises that preceded it. The first deadly exchange at the Line of Actual Control in over four decades has pushed the relationship further down the path of rivalry and broadened India’s strategic horizons.
It was just one month after the resolution of their last major border crisis, the 2017 standoff on the Doklam plateau, that India finally supported the idea of reviving the Quad. This followed years of lobbying from Australia, Japan, and the United States.
The growing frequency of border standoffs, China’s push into South Asia and the Indian Ocean, China’s growing patronage toward Pakistan, and India’s relative estrangement from Russia are all pushing New Delhi away from its non-aligned past. Fear of alienating China no longer prevents India from more fully embracing the Quad. „The Chinese are not particularly sensitive to our concerns regarding [the China-]Pakistan strategic nexus,” notes former Indian Ambassador to China AK Kantha. “Why do we have to be overly concerned about China’s sensitivities with regard to the Quad?“
This evolution in New Delhi’s strategic thinking matters a great deal because India is central to the Quad. The group can only move as quickly as its most reluctant member. Japan, Australia, and the United States are already bound by the thickest of security and intelligence bonds. With India involved at a higher level of strategic coordination, this potent democratic triangle becomes a quadrilateral colossus, accounting for half of the planet’s defense spending, and a third of its population and GDP.
With India and the Biden administration now firmly on board, the Quad’s future is bright.
The Global Times chief editor Hu Xijin however tries to downplay the importance of the Quad and questions that it will become a successful anti-Chinese coalition as the US during its separate visits didn´t get the allies in one anti-Chinese line::
China will let US know tenacity of Chinese civilization if it continues loosely mobilizing containment clique
By Hu Xijin
Published: Mar 20, 2021 11:45 PM
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin paid a visit to India. A joint statement between US and Indian defense chiefs did not mention China. Not long ago, China and India disengaged from the Pangong Tso, and India still holds its deep strategic guard against China. On the one hand, India strengthens relations with the US, and on the other, it keeps a certain distance with the US strategic intention to suppress China. The statement released after the US-South Korea 2+2 talks did not mention China either, apparently because South Korea did not want to.
So far, on the Asia tour by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Austin, only Japan completely coordinated with the US and released a joint statement which maliciously attacked China. This is the quality of the US‘ efforts to construct an anti-China alliance in Asia. It would be day-dreaming for the US to mobilize Asia to contain China. None of the ASEAN countries would sign a statement like the one signed between the US and Japan.
Japan has been striking a balance between consolidating the US alliance to keep a strategic edge over China and improving relations with China. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson accused Japan of „inviting the wolf into the house.“ I think he did it right, as Tokyo has done things harmful to China.
China gave a blunt rebuke to the US in Alaska, so why couldn’t China do the same to Japan? Japan is more powerful than South Korea, but Tokyo’s diplomatic strategy is much more foolish than Seoul. It equals squeezing to a strategic dead end – it not only offended China, but also lost its leverage to maintain its own interests in front of the US. An already powerful China will not fear Japan, let alone given China and Russia join hands, Japan would have no chance to create any waves in Northeast Asia.
China’s strength comes from its own development. The 14th Five-Year Plan is China’s core agenda. If the US wants to hold China in awe and jeopardize China’s development by forming a loose alliance based on wills, then fine – China will let them know the tenacity of the Chinese civilization.”
China also critizises India and the Quad to use vaccine policy for geopolitical purposes to curb China as China tries do do itself:
Quad’s billion-dose vaccine plan merely exchange of interests: analysts
Published: Mar 14, 2021 09:32 PM
Promises by the US and its allies to pump up India’s COVID-19 vaccine production capacity to 1 billion doses by the end of 2022 across Asia is more of an exchange of interests, and whether this effort is able to supply vaccines to developing countries is still a question mark, Chinese analysts said, amid India’s complacency that its vaccine diplomacy is getting a boost.
Leaders of the US, Australia, India and Japan pledged at their first Quad summit on Friday to boost India’s vaccine production capacity by enabling it to produce at least 1 billion doses of vaccines by the end of 2022.
The US and Japan will fund Indian manufacturer Biological E to undertake production, including of Johnson & Johnson vaccines, via the US International Development Finance Corp and Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Straits Times reported.
Media Livemint called this plan the „key and concrete takeaway“ of the Quad meeting and India Today quoted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who wrote „United in our fight against COVID-19, we launched a landmark Quad partnership to ensure accessibility of safe COVID-19 vaccines.“
While India and its media were thrilled to give this news high-profile coverage, Chinese experts said that the plan is more of an exchange of interests. It satisfies the US‘ tactic of roping in India as its firm supporter to contain China’s growing influence in the Asian region, as well as fulfilling India’s long-held ambition to boost its soft power and counter China in vaccine diplomacy.
The Quad’s intention to deliver vaccines to countries across Asia could easily end up being nothing because India itself is still in urgent need of vaccines, and the 1 billion doses will be likely delivered to members of Quad, Japan, Australia and the US first before it provides the leftovers to other countries in Asia, Liu Zongyi, secretary-general of the Research Center for China-South Asia Cooperation at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the Global Times.
Indian reports said only 1.58 percent of India’s 1.35 billion population had been vaccinated so far.
Besides these uncertainties, Tian Guangqiang, an assistant research fellow with the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday that India’s vaccine industry is known for its high production, high speed and low prices.
Given this, the US and US-based pharmaceutical companies will not be willing to transfer core technology to India and give India a chance to challenge the US‘ leading position in vaccine research and development.
„Transferring core technology to India is equivalent to pressing the green button for generic drugs, which are controversial and contain safety risks. In the end, the vaccine plan may be merely a gesture, used by the US and India as leverage to contain China,“ Tian said.
Some other uncertainties exist in terms of India’s vaccine safety and efficacy, especially following vaccination deaths related to AstraZeneca vaccines produced by India, experts noted.
Several countries including Denmark, Norway and Iceland had paused the use of the shot produced by India as a precaution after reports of recipients developing blood clots and deaths, AFP reported. India has given at least 28 million shots in its vast vaccination program, most of them AstraZeneca’s, which are produced at the Serum Institute of India.
It is also worth mentioning that the goal to pump up India’s vaccine production capacity was signed at the meeting of the Quad, an alliance of security, which is mainly used by the US to rope in India, which has always maintained a swaying stance in choosing sides between the US and China, experts said.
Liu said that India is very inclined toward the US‘ Indo-Pacific Strategy. India is gradually breaking the balance. If it goes further down this road, it will eventually lose its strategic autonomy and become the US‘ hatchet man against China in the Indo-Pacific region, or even cannon fodder.
China has no intention to compete with India in so-called vaccine diplomacy, and it would be very likely to conduct cooperation in supplying vaccines to the countries where they are most needed, experts said, adding that it is disappointing that the Quad uses vaccine cooperation as a political means to curb China. “