QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), obviously not an Asian NATO nor an Anglo- American scheme for Indo-Pacific like that of Baghdad Pact for Middle-East; then what is it? In theoretical assumption, it might appear to be a collective response to Chinese aggressive assertion, notwithstanding with adventurous pragmatism of entrant powers and historical interaction among themselves.
The foundation of QUAD as conceived today, stationed after China’s assertive behavior with smaller countries in shallow waters of the South China Sea and then its spillover implications in deep water that enraged great powers and other regional powers merely explains the institutionalization of QUAD. India’s perspective may not align with the rest of the three powers due to the grounding features of India and China’s proximity which is not just geographically knotted but also her status in the hierarchy of world power structure is relatively unequal.
Recent Academic Roar and Rhetoric, concerning QUAD have increased diplomatic transactions in Canberra, New Delhi, Tokyo, and Washington leading to summit level discussion among heads of states in March of 2021 airing more guesstimates among concerned parties and academicians, in particular, making the year 2021 historic in terms of its affirmation, a step ahead from conclaves in recent years. Despite the first appearance of top leaders from four participant countries this year, it remains a premature and loosely bound coalition having a very narrow and inadequate foundation which is built over the idea of encircling one assertive and aggressive Nation i.e. China without citing its name.
This coalition is a bit different from that of the Cold War coalition- NATO, in the manner; its implication is not based on ideological confrontation but propelled over the whole idea of China- politically a communist Nation which is capitalist in economic orientation, making it an unusual phenomenon in 21st century of global politics and likely indistinguishable from European politics in the empirical era.
Half a century back when Democracies couldn’t intuit any perceived threat from this particular ideological state (credit goes to Nixon’s recognition of the People’s republic of China asserting China’s feature as a good communist state in contrast with Soviets i.e. bad communist state post-1969) despite her belligerent action in the Himalayan state of Tibet and Island of Formosa in South China Sea. Circumstances ranging from trade to military have Changed now that engendered four democracies of Indo-Pacific region into a collective perception of trepidation from dangerous Black Hawk of the region viz. China.
India’s choice of being into any military alliance- bilateral or multilateral has a history of hesitation and discomfort. QUAD has inculcated optimism among track two position holders viz. Think tanks and academics, despite have some short of pessimism on the diplomatic front. Academician and Think Tanks focuses on one dimension of security i.e. Maritime security and all other virtual security are not adequately dealt with. Many former diplomats and track one holders have exhibited their Anxiety about QUAD’s process and its potency to cope with issues on India’s territorial border with China.
Considering it a fact that India’s concern lies in Himalayas where obsession for QUAD may end in deadlocked border settlement or worsening it up to uncontrollable damage. Given the fact that India is the only Nation among all four that shares not just territorial boundary but a very long terrain where Chinese has the advantage of controlling river and drainage from their point of genesis.
The question is, will QUAD include the river sharing disputes and other demographic issues that India faces with China in form of Conflict? Incorporating these elements into the QUAD charter in fact will become a bone of contention among QUAD members itself. The reason is obvious that Himalayas does not serve the interest of the US, Japan, or Australia. For India, joining QUAD just for maritime security without considering unified and sustainable security design will translate into submitting her autonomy in deep waters into the hands of former colonial supremacists.
It is quite remarkable to note that the effectiveness of QUAD depends upon collective and holistic security marshaling. To translate this potential institution into India’s asset, there are Chances that might reduce India’s status in BRICS making it a liability or in the most optimistic situation -negative asset can damage India’s reputation like that of NATO member Turkey whose strategy ranges between submission and defiance to maintain her strategic sovereignty.
Strategic autonomy is a huge cry of India’s foreign policy framers since the end of the cold war, leading India to become a consumer state which reflects the instinct of choosing best in her interest in every aspect of statehood from diversifying defense purchasing to plunging into 123 agreement. It is utterly reasonable to claim that India’s autonomy is not tradable to hegemonic serving.
Growing Chinese influence in all regional and global institutions putting impediments in India’s preferences. China had historically blocked India from getting membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Apart from this great power politics, India’s concern was never been addressed by China on the issue of the Belt-Road Initiative especially China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and other Trade-related issues.
Considering politico-economic reality, India should and ought to pursue new order. Thus the question remains the same, what will be the status of India in the new order. Will the QUAD charter give India her space according to her potential and proximity to the central idea of institutionalization of neo-order? Provisioned coherence and materialization of members’ aspirations must be translated into a meaningful deterrent and for best result QUAD must have an effective deployable military capability.
Leadership in India sitting on the double-edged sword and metamorphosed choices that oscillate between strategic autonomy and strategic confusion i.e. between her influence in inner Asia and aspiration of global power. On one hand, BRICS and SCO provided India access to inner Asia to project her power and vital cooperation with member states on counter-terrorism and other security issues that help in securing her border.
Security competitions and the complete security structure involving ‘states’ instead of non-state actors then BRICS and SCO are proving to be less satisfactory from India’s security standpoint. The reason is obvious that both organizations are becoming more and more China-Centric and room for India is getting diminished day by day. This reflects that India and China cannot remain in one quiver particularly when both are pursuing their concurring geopolitical interests.
At present, SCO appears to be in danger with the Taliban gaining power and its recognition by western powers. China, now absorbed in strengthening SCO- that is vital to protect its Western border where Islamic extremist movements may hamper the all achieved success in Xinjiang province. A similar ballgame may be applied with India in case of securing her Northern border especially Kashmir that shares a border with Pakistan concerning Islamic extremism.
Relevance of SCO became vital for India given the fact that the Taliban getting close to the ruling seat in Afghanistan. India’s proactive role in Afghanistan roads through regional institutions and any miscalculated alliance in Maritime order might hamper India’s security arrangements in Himalayas; not restricted only to China but also with new state and non-state machinery in Afghanistan.
There is global fear of growing extremist movements in central Asia with growing capabilities of Taliban. India’s stake might be at hold until India assures and act proactively to deal with Taliban’s office bearers. Absence of India in political processes in Afghanistan is helping Pakistan in gaining the ground which might strike India’s interest. USA being a common factor in Afghanistan and QUAD making India’s position tough. At first India should be more than cautious in cooperating with USA on maritime and territorial security front and at second India should act fast and sharp to cooperate with Taliban. First choice reflects India’s strategic confusion while later reflects strategic compulsion or one might recognize it a strategic autonomy.
The balance with institutions that circumfuse with India’s security cannot be seen in a quarantined framework; it attracts a vital understanding of regional cooperation and emerging circumstances in the immediate neighborhood and extended neighborhood. Balancing between SCO and QUAD is going to be a very tough business for Indian diplomats for which they are not equipped with adequate purpose and apparatus.
QUAD can only prove to be advantageous to India if India manages to persuade all other members to consider India’s vital interest. While the origin of QUAD is the humanitarian crisis that occurred during the 2004 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean and now it is expanding into security areas making it a principle-based organization emphasizing its role as a force for global good. India’s interest in QUAD will remain inadequate until it doesn’t include obligatory security participation by all member states by means of all possible efforts in case of any aggression concerning the interest including territorial- of any participating members instead of just sharing military logistic and intelligence data.