By SUSHIL KUTTY :
Australia, India, Japan and the United States make up the ‘Quad’ and together they can singe China where it hurts. Singly, it would be gargantuan for any of the four to argue with China and make a dent, but together in a Quad, China could be subdued and made to at least ‘behave’ with less belligerence.
THOUGH very much part of Indo-Pacific, wannabe superpower People’s Republic of China cannot be part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or ‘Quad’ for the simple reason that the Quad has come to be because China came to be the way it came to be! Quad took to its four feet fearing Chinese hegemony. As soon as China started throwing its considerable weight around. When President Xi Jinping made it known that China was staking to be ‘No. 1 Country in the World.’ The People’s Republic of China will be a 100 years in 2049 and Xi wants recognition before he breathes his last.
After all, the man is President for life! Australia, India, Japan and the United States make up the ‘Quad’ and together they can singe China where it hurts. Singly, it would be gargantuan for any of the four to argue with China and make a dent, but together in a Quad, China could be subdued and made to at least ‘behave’ with less belligerence. Yup, for the Quad, the Chinese panda is the elephant in the room. Trusted like the fox and feared like the mythical fire-spewing dragon. Targeted by Trump’s USA and just about tolerated by Japan, Australia’s had enough of the heckling and pushing around and India’s fed up of the salami-slicing at the LAC – China is a disgusting presence for the Quad.
The Quad has met a half a dozen times since 2017, when it was “resurrected from a decade-long hiatus.” It wants to keep the “liberal rules-based international order” alive and ticking, which is not what China fancies in the new global order in which China will call the shots, China alone. To which the Quad says, ‘stuff the order!’ Quad has as its primary focus the task to discipline China’s PLA (Navy) in the Indo-Pacific and stop it from phishing in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The Quad ships a mighty armada – four countries’ aircraft carriers, submarines, destroyers, frigates and other warships skimming saltwater – and is fully capable of giving China a run for its money in any ocean.
Most Indo-Pacific countries have a healthy dislike for China’s unbridled hegemony, but there are certain nations in the IOR which appear to have been bought over by the Chinese to their side, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo realised as he was going around the IOR. Pompeo was in India last week when the USA and India signed the Beca, which should have given China and Pakistan the jitters, but, instead, has given Sri Lanka a scare. Pompeo was in Colombo after New Delhi and the Lankans apparently told Pompeo that the Quad looked dangerously like a military calculation than an economic arrangement. Of course, Pompeo dispelled Sri Lanka’s misgivings and told the teardrop of a country to enjoy the beaches. But the current rulers of Sri Lanka are more Ravana and less Vibhishana as far as India is concerned. Brothers, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, are more China’s pals than they are India’s friends.
The Rajapaksas told Pompeo they would have been reassured if the Quad were an economic grouping rather than a military/navy fighting machine hardened in the fires of burning ships! The problem for China and its bought-over allies like Sri Lanka is that the Quad presents the “unified resolve” of four countries to take on China’s growing belligerence and assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific and IOR. That said and digested, to date, the Quad has not said straight to China’s face that Quad’s primary target is China! No Sir, Quad’s kept its real reason and intention for coming into being undercover and under wraps. Quad communications have to date studiously kept mum on China.
The Quad, if it’s a sound ship in the high seas, gives a wide berth to China and sails clear of rumpling Beijing’s feathers. Then, again, any formation is only as strong as its constituents. To this date, apart from the USA, it’s hard to fathom which of the three – Japan, Australia and India – is the weakest link in the Quad chain. Japan has figured in the calculations. Australia definitely. And, to begin with, India with her wavering and dithering was considered the weakest link. However, the coronavirus and China’s sudden homerun to get ahead of everybody in the global race – post-emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic – to grab pole-position in the superpower race, has turned the Quad into a viable countermeasure to China’s hegemonic weight.
And the catalyst, India! Everybody including China expected India to go under and beg for mercy at the LAC following Galwan Valley, 2020. But the Indian Army response poured cold water on China’s PLA’s dreams to conquer the Himalayas and the cold reaches of Ladakh. Suddenly, the Quad is in the Malabar on the high seas with Aussie ships flying the Australian flag also part of the Quad armada. True, the Quad has not even now named China as target, but it’s more or less confirmed that if China so much as sneezes high on the mountains and doesn’t matter how many nautical miles into the Indo-Pacific and IOR, the Quad will sail and the Chinese will have to anchor any ideas of taking over the global order. The Quad is the four ways in one to rein in the Chinese stallion! (IPA)