13 Nov 2017/Monday
For a long time, Japan had been proposing a the Indo-Pacific Quadrilateral to counter and wriggle out of Chinese influence in the region of Indo- Pacific. Japan initiated Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) way back in 2006-07 during Prime Minster Shinzo Abe’s first term in office.
ASEAN is a group of countries Comprising Southeast Asian states which promotes Pan-Asianism and intergovernmental cooperation and amongst its member states. This is one of the oldest and most influential and respected group in the region. It was formed on 8 August 1967 by Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. The organization later expanded to include Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Asean has been a very progressive force in the region and has many feathers in its cap. The organization achieved greater cohesion after the end of Vietnam War in 1975, which resulted in the regions rapid economic growth. With 8.8% of world’s population and $2.8 Trillion as GDP, the region has been attractive destination of world economies. Beginning in 1997 the ASEAN started including other countries to integrate better in the region, starting with first three countries i.e. China, South Korea and Japan. Later on included India, Australia and New Zealand in ASEAN Plus Six. AFTA (ASEAN Free Trade Area) is mandatory for all the members. ASEAN was given observer status in UNGA in 2006. Off late Russia and USA have also joined this forum making it a formidable trade alliance in the region.
With the letting of China into the ASEAN fold the balance had heavily tilted into Chinese favor. China being a large dominant country started its expansionist outlook on South China Sea after its economic and trade growth have dimmed. The Chinese attitude in South China Sea has grown beyond the International Court of Justice where the Chinese lost their legal battle. The member countries have already started feeling the weight of China in the region. The US and other important countries such as Japan and India have started feeling that China has to be kept under check after its South China Sea stance.
India had been reluctant to be part of the QSD as Australia is a dominant trade partner of China and doubted if Australians would balance the alliance commitments over its economic dependence on China. India thus blocked entry of Australian Navy into the Exercise Malabar. Australians too withdrew after the Chinese speaking Labour Prime Minister Kevin Kudd backtracked from Exercise Malabar and subsequently from QSD.
With change in regimes in India and Australia that an understanding has been reached over the differences. India’s interests now are focused on enhancing connectivity towards the east – with non-Chinese characteristics – and battling terrorism in the west, which is directly or indirectly influenced by open support of Chinese government. On a larger canvas, India is also trying to balance Chinese power in Asia like Japan. This arrangement would try to aim towards a grouping of countries all looking to balance China, using an international rules-based order to counter aggressive power play of China.
India and Japan are already working on connectivity projects within the region and in the Africa and larger Asia. They have recently conceptualized growth corridor, with a promise to involve local stakeholders and interests using more transparent financing rules.
India and Japan have got together as a key partners in Act East policy/Bay of Bengal, to not only to work on connectivity issues, but also reassure smaller neighbors, which may have been suspicious of India. Already India has started working with Japan to improve connectivity between its Northeastern states with Bangladesh and Myanmar. With the US, India is more invested in a counter-terrorism, security and defense relationship, the same has already been confirmed by US secretary of state Rex Tillerson recently. With the possibility of cooperation between Japan, India and Australia, taking forward the Malabar experience may add to greater maritime security.
Indian Mini-lateral relationships.
To ensure its security India has many mini-lateral engagements such as trilateral meeting with Russia and China on the topic of Asia Pacific last year, India-Sri Lanka-Maldives trilateral, India-US-Japan and recently India-Japan-Australia, India-Afghanistan-Iran on security matters. India is looking to hold the India-US-Afghanistan meet shortly. After the recent Doklam crisis India has been more receptive or the Quadrilateral Alliance and is fast bridging up gaps between itself and Australia.
In the past any issue of Pacific would involve Chinese as it’s a dominant player. US by involving Australia has pushed the area of interest towards south and out of reach of Chinese. Thus, effectively segregating the China card in totality. Moreover, it would be one of the greatest events to watch after a long time when Southern and Central Pacific regions has come together with India as pillars of development. US hopes that this trans-Pacific alliance will not only enhance economic development of the countries involved but also keep a check on China.
China is worried about the recent development towards the Quadrilateral Alliance will undermine its international and regional influence. Chinese have already expressed their apprehension hoping that the alliance would not be damaging third party’s interest (Chinese Interests). Chinese experts have already started smear campaign stating that India can hardly contribute to the regions development process as it is struggling challenges on front. Chinese are using two pronged approach on India, by keeping intellectually engaged with smear campaign and by keeping it preoccupied in proxy war from western front by supporting the terror groups through Pakistan.
In would be interesting to see how the Chinese government will now try to circumvent this alliance or break it using its trade ties specially with Australia. The faster the think tanks in Beijing realize that its bulldozing in international sphere has resulted in formation of numerous alliances. Too much aggressive stance in the longer run is going to cost the Chinese friends and also trade partners. It has already started damaging its own people in western part of China where ISIS has started influencing the population. However, Chinese Government is against defining terror in UNGA.