Newly Elected POTUS Joe Biden has promptly reversed a few of his predecessor’s policies such as exit from the Paris Agreement and ban on 7 Muslim majority countries. But President Biden stopped short with last regime’s policies related to China. The anti –Chinese narrative built by President Trump stressed the importance of QUAD to contain Chinese expansionist policies. President Biden has continued with the same approach and was a part of the first QUAD virtual summit to stress for a free and open Indo-Pacific. Counterparts from India, Japan, and Australia joined the virtual summit, followed by a joint official statement wherein all agreed to have a focused, coherent and realistic approach to contain and limit China’s aggressive expansionist policies.
The United States has been leading some efforts to contain China through various means such as active vigilance, confronting China’s maritime activities in the South China Sea, combating China’s media narratives and providing aid to QUAD partners, in order to promote collective voices against China.
However, these efforts lack a concrete and comprehensive strategy. The U.S-led QUAD has been an active pillar of U.S. foreign policy, but has failed to show any positive output in accordance with its objectives. For example, after the QUAD summit, the U.S. expressed its interest in providing 6 million vaccines to India. Although a much-needed help and a gesture of co-operation, the U.S. fell short of providing actual assistance for issues that are directly related to China.
The QUAD was formed in 2007, and was re-established in 2017. QUAD member states have been involved in activities such as the Malabar – joint military drills, naval exercises, and are trying to get more countries to be a part of the QUAD alliance.
The Trump administration had many internal QUAD meetings before the recent QUAD summit attended by President Biden, but so far, both administrations have failed to come up with a solid plan of action.
India’s Modi Government seems to have a defensive and moderate stance on all matters related to China. It is aware of its realities and certainly wants to avoid a direct conflict with China. There have been direct and indirect statements over the U.S.’s Indo-Pacific strategy from India’s top diplomats and officials. However, here too, a stronger approach and a clear strategy is missing.
The U.S. Japan and Australia expect a much more direct approach from India, since India is facing a direct brunt of the Chinese expansionism in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. India shares a difficult and long border with China and can be deemed as and most affected QUAD partner, when it comes to China’s expansionism. It is therefore considered a critical player in this equation and is certainly expected to do more.
Foreign Minister of India Dr S. Jaishankar said the QUAD is “Not -Against someone (China) but, for something”. He said, “It is for peaceful East Asia and the South China Sea, and as many ASEAN member states have raised their concerns over China’s expansionism in the South China Sea, which is a leading dispute”. Here notably, the Foreign Minister mentioned China’s expansionism in the South China Sea but avoided mentioning PLA’s Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh scuffles with Indian soldiers.
Ex-NSA Shivshankar Menon says India-China need to handle issues that divide us and settle our differences. But also added that to reset our relationship, the first step is to keep peace on borders. The President of the Center for China Analysis said in a summit, “It’s not a question of being hurt but that of absent trust. We are trying to fix our relations, but the Chinese have blown it apart.”
As per the latest update, QUAD nations are to join France in naval drills. And Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned Bangladesh against joining the anti– Beijing QUAD club by emphasizing that it would substantially damage China – Bangladesh bilateral ties. The United Kingdom seems tilting towards joining the QUAD club as per a recent report by The Guardian, however, there’s no official confirmation so far.
After the recent COVID outbreak, countries from across the world had offered and supplied all possible immediate help to India, including the United States and China. New Delhi has also recently re-iterated that it has “no conceptual problems with China” while receiving oxygen supplies and other COVID related aid from China.
All things considered, India will have to re-assess and re-shape its overall foreign policy keeping in mind its economic and political objectives in the region. Despite what QUAD members and the world expects from India, it can be argued that India’s approach of avoiding any direct conflict with China suits its regional ambition and helps bring peace and stability in the region, at least within the short-term.
Rehan Rajput is a political analyst and frequently appears on TV as a debate panelist.
The views and opinions expressed in the above article belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official opinion, policy or position of Lokmaanya.