2022 hasn’t started on a very positive note, looking at the belligerence of Moscow while annexing Ukraine. New Delhi’s stand seemed to be a question when it stood neutral regarding the sanctions put on Russia for the forced annexation of Ukraine and even China moving with the same stance, at a period it is involved in increased geopolitical bargains, looking at her expansionist as well as revisionist activities in the Indo Pacific. These events underscored the need for like-minded countries to collaborate in mustering multilateralism and increased cooperation to mitigate such threats through informal groupings where the role played by the Quadrilateral Security Initiative in ensuring power parity in the region is seeming to be viable.
New Delhi’s Position Of Neutrality
In spite of doubts and differences among QUAD members regarding New Delhi’s approach, the grouping has carried on regardless of such questions and skepticism in media and academic institutions coming about India’s stance and neutral foreign policy vis-à-vis Russia, its old strategic and defense partner. Even though Moscow’s adventurism was discussed during the recent QUAD Summit, New Delhi remained neutral on overtly lashing out at Moscow Tokyo was hand in glove with Washington when discussions were taking place about human rights issues and violations being witnessed during the ongoing Ukraine invasion .
According to Prof C Raja Mohan, India’s relations with like-minded partners have been more or less stable in spite of Washington flagging concerns vis-à-vis New Delhi stance towards Moscow where at later stages, it accepted India’s strategic autonomy and warned about the former’s own security concerns vis-à-vis Beijing’s irredentist approach in the Himalayas and Moscow being an old partner when US China relations were at a high in the 1970’s and India’s relations with the West were at a completely different direction unlike today.
So, while observing the continuous geopolitical competition and confusion, New Delhi’s neutral approach seems beneficial when it comes to its past outreach activities under the Security and Growth For All Initiative towards smaller countries during the pandemic era, where provisions of medical and humanitarian aid were made through distribution of vaccines, medicines and PPE kits for which enormous responses were received for the goodwill gestures. New Delhi’s strategic response is based on universalist Vasudeva Kutambakam -one world and one family where the aim is towards ensuring inclusivity, peace and stability in the region.
Apart from keeping checks and balances on emerging challenges in the region, the QUAD aspires to work on multidimensional areas such as infrastructure, 5G technology, biotechnology, disaster management, outer space, climate change, terrorism along with satellite development. QUAD countries have contributed towards collaborating on USD$ 50 billion worth of infrastructure in the Indo Pacific for five years .
The recent Summit could be a follow up to last year’s Washington Summit where scholarships were offered to students aspiring to pursue higher studies, pharmaceuticals, defense and trade. Furthermore, the countries committed towards ensuring a rule based order along with a free sea lanes of navigations to ensure maritime security and order plus mitigate multidimensional threats arising in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Oceans.
The India-US Incentive Investment Agreement was signed to ensure increased investments coming from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) where proposals worth USD$ 4 billion have been initiated for investment in renewable energy, healthcare etc. and even the two countries agreed on collaborating on AI, advanced technologies, Vaccine Development 2027 Programme , information sharing.
These economic initiatives could be essential in the Aatmanirbhar Bharat and Make in India programs, underscoring the need for India to be achieve self-sufficiency in the manufacturing sector where in a globalized and interdependent world, it is essential for looking towards multiple avenues and markets to ensure economic prowess.
What Does the Summit Mean For Washington ?
Important developments could be noticed amidst the Summit included the introduction of a new Indo Pacific Economic Framework, aimed at making supply chains efficient and resilient, robust movement of goods and services, providing quality infrastructure, Keeping in mind these challenges and to thwart Beijing’s expansionist cum ambitious efforts to alter status-quo, Washington has initiated this tough move to reposition itself as the leader of the current order and protect her position since she left the Trans Pacific Partnership during President Trump’s tenure and this initiative will give her opportunities and options.
The IPEF is essential for the US presence in the region since 13 of its members constitute of about 40 per cent global GDP, 3 million American jobs come from the region . Even, 7 AEAN members including Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei took part in this initiative, even though they are wary of any neocolonialist activities in their periphery and also they don’t want to be dictated to join any military pact or grouping through economic incentivization or bullying to shape their perceptions which Beijing is practicing in a vigorous manner .
Even President Biden acknowledged India’s role as a democracy to tackle an autocratic order and here, Washington sees India as an important balancing factor as far as its strategic leverage in the Indian Ocean is concerned. Other concerns which may have compelled Biden to further outreach and give importance to strategic allies include the situation in the Korean peninsula where he event met his counterpart President Yoon to oversee the threats coming from Pyongyang’s belligerent activities through its frequent missile tests plus even Taiwan’s fate is still a question because of frequent Chinese exercises taking place in its areas. So, it is imperative for QUAD countries to work towards the same in smaller countries which are stuck in this geopolitical blame game where neo-imperialist tactics are being adopted by the dragon.
Chinese Perceptions of the Current Situation
Looking at the recent remarks made in Tokyo vis-a-vis status of Taipei , Beijing has been critical of the framework along with collective security mechanisms being adopted by certain countries to alter status quo . The One China policy rhetoric has been repeatedly mentioned by the Chinese foreign ministry where appeals have been made to countries in order to stop interfering in Taiwan’s territorial sovereignty and integrity through coercion and use of force. Beijing currently, has a negative global image due to its stance on Ukraine plus its continuity of activities in the East as well as South China seas , making it a good case for countries to find alternatives and forge new strategic partnerships. Even, State media enterprises such as Xinhua, Global Times and China Daily have left no stone unturned to narrate their own nationalistic refutations with them seeing the meetings and comments as an egoistic western agenda, trying to impose their own ideas and will .
Further, the Chinese are viewing this as a move to threaten stability in Asia through development of an Asian NATO and like-minded partners accentuating a neo-cold war by bringing the Ukraine and Taiwan issues into the region as per what Chinese scholar Don Chunling pinned in Global Times .
On May 24, Chinese and Russian jets have been flexing their muscles through conducting joint exercises on the East China Sea with two Tu 95 and Xian H-6 fighter jets , in view of increasing convergences taking place between like minded partners in act of fear and insecurity where they even feel that the cooperation will be useful to ensure equilibrium vis-à-vis power balance in the region amidst groupings and cliques, in Chinese tone where even Spokesperson Wang Wenbin has reiterated about Moscow being a strategic partner in SCO and BRICS where he stated about third parties to keep out of internal affairs in the EU and Ukraine. The zero-sum game played by aggressors need to be monitored and strategically calculated to minimize risks of a full-blown conflict in the near future.
For New Delhi, this initiative could prove beneficial for enhancement of small and medium scale industries, maritime security, defense systems and goods, making it imperative for the former to further its outreach in global markets, to project itself as a key player in the Indo Pacific. To reduce dependence on Russian equipment which New Delhi has been mainly using in its army, this could create an open area for looking at multiple alternatives in order to get access to technology, surveillance systems and modern armory. New Delhi’s strategic autonomy narrative could be useful for her to project a strong image in front of sceptics and adversaries amid a period of unprecedented crises .
New Delhi can’t afford to have a conflict with China in the near future because it still lags behind militarily plus economically and many players don’t want to get in to a full-blown conflict immediately since the priorities and national interests always diverge and it becomes difficult to reach a common ground amidst anarchy and great power struggle.