From Quad Summit to China: India must stop doing Biden’s bidding

Uncle Sam’s embrace gets tighter around India

Politics

May 25, 2022

/ By / New Delhi

From Quad Summit to China: India must stop doing Biden’s bidding

India's interests - strategic, business or social - do not coincide entirely with other members of Quad (Photo: Twitter)

As second in-person Quad Summit concluded in Tokyo, India finds itself drawn ever closer into the embrace of the United States, with little to distinguish it from the traditional US allies. Joining up alliances is not an end in itself and India is likely to find itself being used by the US to further its interests, notably against China, without anything similar to gain from this relationship.

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The fourth Quad Summit, second in-person, has ended in Japanese capital Tokyo on a predictable note, with more intensive targetting of China, especially for its aggressive misadventures in the Indo-Pacific region.

Though the leaders of the four member nations, United States President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, India’s Narendra Modi and the host, Japan’s Fumio Kishida, discussed a wide range of issues, touching economy, maritime security, strategic cooperation as well as economic and educational collaboration, the Quad is nothing more than a thinly veiled anti-China forum, something which was made clear even by Quad leaders in Tokyo.

Though it does not name China even once, almost the entire statement issued at the end of the meeting is in reference to China, leaving little doubt as to who the alliance is ranged against. “We strongly support the principles of freedom, rule of law, democratic values, sovereignty and territorial integrity, peaceful settlement of disputes without resorting to threat or use of force, any unilateral attempt to change the status quo, and freedom of navigation and overflight, all of which are essential to the peace, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and to the world. We will continue to act decisively together to advance these principles in the region and beyond. We reaffirm our resolve to uphold the international rules-based order where countries are free from all forms of military, economic and political coercion,’’ says the statement.

Zeroing into China, its raison d’etre, the leaders said that the Quad was committed to cooperation with partners in the region who share the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. ‘‘We reaffirm our unwavering support for ASEAN unity and centrality and for the practical implementation of ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. We will champion adherence to international law, particularly as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the maintenance of freedom of navigation and overflight, to meet challenges to the maritime rules-based order, including in the East and South China Seas. We strongly oppose any coercive, provocative or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo and increase tensions in the area, such as the militarisation of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard vessels and maritime militia, and efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation activities,’’ said the statement.

The Quad also said that it was focused on developing its cooperation with Pacific island countries. ‘‘To enhance their economic well being, strengthen health infrastructure and environmental resilience, to improve their maritime security and sustain their fisheries, to provide sustainable infrastructure, to bolster educational opportunities, and to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change, which pose especially serious challenges for this region. We are committed to working together to address the needs of Pacific island partners. We reaffirmed our support for Pacific Islands Forum unity and for Pacific regional security frameworks,’’ says the joint statement.

Another tangential reference to China was made in the part of the statement dealing with infrastructure development. The leaders reaffirmed commitment to deepen cooperation on infrastructure, saying it was critical to driving productivity and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. Referring to the unprecedented debt crisis that has wracked some countries in the region, notably Sri Lanka, the Quad leaders said that they were committed to addressing debt issues, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic in many countries.

The Quad leaders say that they bring decades of skills and experience to catalyse infrastructure delivery to the region. ‘‘We are committed to working closely with partners and the region to drive public and private investment to bridge gaps. To achieve this, Quad will seek to extend more than 50 billion USD of infrastructure assistance and investment in the Indo-Pacific, over the next five years,’’ says the statement.

India in ever-tighter embrace of Uncle Sam

In the statement, there was practically nothing that reflected Indian interests, save for a passing reference to terrorism and cross-border violence, in an obvious reference to Pakistan. However, the statement was entirely silent on China’s repeated incursions into India and the clashes that the two countries have had at various points along the long border that they share.

While Chinese incursions in the Pacific and South China Sea may be of concern to India, but it is largely a problem for the countries in the region, notably Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam which are bearing the brunt of Chinese show of force and construction of Chinese military bases all over the area.

The real challenge for India lies in its own backyard, especially the border with China as well as repeated attempts by China to build ports and military bases in the neighbouring nations. And not so surprisingly, there is no mention of the several skirmishes that Indian troops have had on the border with China and the thousands of square kilometres of Indian territory, notably in Arunachal Pradesh as well as Ladakh, with entire villages being settled on the Indian land.

It is certain that India has not asked for assistance in dealing with China, but even if it did, it is highly unlikely that the US or its allies will respond with the same generosity and alacrity as they have done in Ukraine. And even if they did, it would make India dependent upon the US for its foreign and strategic policy for a long while to come, something that will be a monumental trap as the Indian interests diverge wildly from those of the US or other developed countries on numerous issues such as trade policies, agriculture, technology, pharmaceuticals, patents, climate change, movement of people and many others.

Already, India can see adequate evidence that even when India jumps in to support the US and its allies over the battles that are clearly not its own, the same ‘strategic friends’ of India don’t blink an eye before dragging India to the World Trade Organisation on one issue or another as could be seen over the past few months even as the same ‘friends’ of India were egging New Delhi to support them on issues of their concern, notably the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Another sharp reminder to India about how these nations are just good weather allies was delivered just earlier this month when the US and the European Union criticised Indian decision to ban wheat exports in face of a sharp fall in public procurement and a drop in foodgrain reserves that India maintains. India has already been criticised and even sued at the WTO by its ‘friends’ on its agriculture subsidies, even though there is little to compare an Indian farmer with an American, European or from any other developed nation. Yet, the countries that spend up to Eur 60 billion on direct subsidies to their few million farmers question India for its pittance support of a few thousand rupees to each of the 900 million farmers. Similar examples of rampant double standards practiced by the developed nations can be found in the hundreds.

India ought to defend its interests first and last. Joining a club, however chic or exclusive it may appear, can never be the right price for sacrificing national interest. Modi and his team would do well to remember that.

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