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QUAD initiative to balance China's expansionist Asia-Pacific agenda

By Sudhanshu Tripathi - posted Monday, 15 June 2020

China continues to inflame a precariously tense situation with India by amassing its soldiers and weapons in huge numbers near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, compelling New Delhi to follow suit in its own defence. And that reminds one of the turbulent days of 1962, when China successfully stabbed India in the back.

Aware of mounting threats to its national security from China ­– with whom Pakistan is colluding against India – New Delhi recently concluded a strategic treaty with Australia whereby both parties can use the military, naval and air bases of the other when required. Obviously the agreement has increased India's overall strategic power in the Asia-Pacific, as well as enhancing India-Australia security cooperation, in order to counter China's rising aggressive and imperialist assertions in the region.

This deal will obviously pave the way for more military exchanges between the two and joint exercises in the Indo-Pacific. It's also likely to help revive the Quadrilateral (QUAD) initiative consisting of the US, Australia, Japan and India. QUAD has been in the air for the past few months. This initiative can be further consolidated by including Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia and many other like-minded states in South East Asia, as almost all these countries in the region have border disputes with China and remain threatened and victimized by China's reckless aggressions and misdemeanours. In fact, this endeavour can improve today's regional security architecture by expanding into a broader Indo-Pacific regional canvas capable of appropriately balancing the Chinese expansionist agenda in Asia-Pacific, particularly over the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), and also over the LAC and beyond.


China wishes to rise in the world ­– and it has already achieved amazingly unparalleled heights in the short span of perhaps one and a half decades – and there has been no objection from any quarter because in a liberal-democratic world order each sovereign country has the privilege to pursue its goals the way it deems suitable. But there is also a rider – such an exercise must not disturb the stability, solidarity and also the peaceful established order of the international community. Nor should a rising nation trouble any country or region or, indeed, anyone whoever. In fact most of the post-colonial liberal-social democracies of the west, barring a few exceptions, have been progressing on their merit within the framework of those restrictions universally characterized in the Law of Nature or the earlier Dictates of Reason, as pronounced by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle and equally stated in the immortal words of the legendary Chinese philosopher Confucius: "Don't do unto others what you don't want done unto you". What could be a better yardstick of social behaviour for everyone to observe? And that obviously applies to all sovereign states in the global community of sovereign nations.

Unfortunately, China has ignored the noble counsel of its own philosopher by consistently using unethical and crooked means against countries such as Tibet, India, many in South East Asia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and many more, including its staunch supporter Pakistan. Indeed, China has been committing such ignoble deeds since its very beginning and it continues to suffer from "Middle Kingdom Complex". Although China wishes to assume unquestioned global supremacy and hegemony by replacing the US, boasting a rich and distinguished cultural past accompanied by a present of massive economic and military power, its immoral and aggressive tactics and machinations to accomplish its ends have always aroused fears among democratic and liberal societies all over the world. Its ambitious OBR or Silk Road grand strategy, ostensibly devised for economic reasons, is also aimed at securing those same objectives.

And perhaps with the same objectives in mind, China is believed by some to have manufactured the Coronavirus in its Wuhan Laboratory of Virology and then secretly released it into the world. Unfortunately the virus's global spread and the consequent catastrophe may have revealed a deliberate strategy to disrupt the US-dominated international order and the global economy so that China may reap the fruits of their devastation.

By staging this long standoff over LAC, China aims to intimidate and deter India from joining the emerging anti-China global alliance comprising the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea, New Zeeland, Canada, Norway, and many others. But China's increasing isolation on the global front, due to its possibly shady role in leaking Coronavirus into the world, has prompted Beijing to react by sending across a message of rising dominance in the larger international context: the South China Sea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, global trade – and towards India as well. Indeed, China has purposely hit countries that have either raised questions about the origin of the Coronavirus, as did Australia and New Zealand by supporting the World Health Organization (WHO)'s inspection into China's Wuhan Lab of Virology, or that may become future adversaries, in particular India, Vietnam and Philippines, which may be willing to align with the impending US-led post-Corona global alliance against Beijing.

Among these, India is obviously the most potent threat to China due to its inherent moral/cultural power and significant scientific, technological and economic achievements. In fact, India has been distinguished for its generosity during humanitarian crises in the past and today, with the global Coronavirus menace, has for the most part been praised by the whole world, including the WHO. The US has recently invited India into the global community of seven rich countries, or G-7, along with Russia, Japan and South Korea, due to its rising economic potential as well as its role as a trusted strategic partner. And India is slated to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Obviously, India's rising global stature is agonizing for China as well as Pakistan.

Today, while the whole world endures the Coronavirus pandemic, China is instead working hard to expand its sphere-of-influence in the Indian Ocean, PoK and South China Sea, while trashing Hong Kong's autonomy under the 'One Country, Two Systems' approach and also pressuring Taiwan. But political analysts are of the view that China is facing numerous internal challenges and popular unrest on several counts, such as a rebounding Coronavirus surge; economic recession; and also the government's inability to address people's aspirations, instead resorting to the suppression of the masses, including minority Uiaghar Muslims etc.. All these together pose serious threats to the regime of President Xi, who is earnestly trying to divert popular attention away from his own follies by focusing on the thorny border issue with India.


Indeed, China knows that India's national power is today far beyond what it was in 1962. It enjoys a fair-practice image under PM Narendra Modi ­– who means business and remains uncompromising in regard to India's national security and territorial integrity. And that has obviously deterred China, whose forces have withdrawn from the front line of the LAC and it has evidently led Beijing to moderate its aggressive tone against India. This is reflected in the Chinese official newspaper, Global Times, which has expressed the necessity for, and the significance of, bilateral discussion to resolve the ongoing standoff. But China is an unpredictable great power and adopts secret machinations as well as guerilla tactics against its enemy, so India has to remain cautious about the LAC. India needs to ensure its infrastructure-building exercise goes along unhindered, and insist on territorial unity and integrity. Several rounds of military and diplomatic talks between the two countries have not yielded any positive result so far. The full details of Core Commander level discussions held on June 6 at Maldo are not available yet, but were unlikely to offer any breakthrough, given China's track record of intransignency.

India must immediately activate its diplomatic forces to forge strategic relations with all states in the Indo-Pacific including South East Asian countries, and must also endeavour to enlarge the scope of the recent security pact with Australia with a view to turning the spirit of the QUAD initiative into reality. Fortunately, since 2011 Australia has also had a security arrangement with the US towards the same end. Obviously, a strong regional security bulwark of this type, ie a powerful regional security architecture-cum-alliance, like that of NATO, is essentially what's needed now, a bulwark that can effectively counter China's mounting imperialist and aggressive assertions in this region.

Perhaps China has come to understand the inherent message of the India-Australia security deal and is finding itself increasingly isolated, with the impending international probe as regards its complicity regarding the Coronavirus. Obviously, the truth will come to light one day. Given all these external as well as internal pressures, along with India's bold and tough stance on the LAC, asking for immediate status-quo-ante at all points viz. Galwan Valley, Pangong-Tso and Gogra-Hot Springs region in eastern Ladakh, Beijing may be left with no option but to capitulate in the final throes of negotiation.

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About the Author

Dr Sudhanshu Tripathi is Professor at UPTROU, Prayagaraj (UP), Bharat (India).

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