Japan, India, US & Australia : A New Axis to Counter China ?
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
PM has been to Manila to attend the Association of South East Asian Nations-India summit and the East Asia summit. Despite these important multilateral events, however, the focus is more likely going to be on three bilateral meetings: USA, Australia and Japan. If going by the popular voices, this can once again be resurrection of decade-old idea for a grouping, known as the quadrilateral. The focus is to keep the Indo Pacific ocean “free and open”, seen as a move to counter China’s aggressive behaviour in the area.
A new axis to counter china?
The maritime dimension is crucial to the Indo-pacific region. It has been ignored for very long. So there is a need for maritime friendship between the key countries. More important among the countries is to talk about cooperation and peace building and prosperity. Maritime security, sea lines of communications and international order based on law and rules has a common interest of India, USA, Japan and Australia. This idea is to bring likeminded to achieve common objective and enhancing synergy.
While the notion of alliance as known in cold war context is perhaps not valid, there is some kind of correspondence between India and US about what kind of international order they would like to see, particularly
- Respect for law
- Customary norms
A decade old idea
Japan has fostered and promoted infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific region. India and Sri Lanka have benefited from Japanese investments and hence there is prosperity building. But never Japan has tried to influence its equity in those infrastructure. So, the investments made by it were never considered as a leverage to gain over the sovereignty of the country or area.
Today, Japan is conscious of growing maritime presence of China, particularly in Indian Ocean.
It was Japan’s PM Abe only which had talked of “confluence of the two seas”, a phrase taken from Mughal prince Dara Shikoh, about 10 years ago. Then, neither India nor Australia were keen to upset China.
However, in 2017, Malabar exercise was conducted during doklam standoff which shows Japan’s reflection of distinctive type of maritime empathy.
A diamond to counter pearls
The Chinese are talking about the string of pearls. China is now in Myanmar, Srilanka, Bangladesh, Gwadar and Djibouti which completes the string of pearls.
Now there is a ‘diamond’ which comprises of USA, Japan, Australia and India. These countries can be loosely called as concert of democracies. China is not among them.
This is more of a partnership where there would be certain emphasis on connectivity after all India and japan are now connecting on Africa corridor. So beyond a traditional military alliance to a kind of flexi partnership which can be brought together if an exigency arises.
Japan is conscious of presence of china in South China Sea and east Sea of Japan. Australia is concerned about certain specific Chinese initiatives specific Australia.
More focus on security is needed
There is a paucity of security institutions in Asia. There is ASEAN and focus on economic aspect but Asia lacks a security aspect of multilateral institutions. In terms of security, there is always about reacting because if you pro-act in security, then you become unnecessarily assertive. So countries pro-act for peace, development and partnership. But for security, there is reaction. China has reacted in nine dash line but was proactive in South China Sea.
China feels the present situation as situationally, positionally and intellectually a challenging moment. Yet, as right now US is withdrawing from cold war institutions and china would like to occupy top position.
India should be independent
India and USA cannot have convergence as it can be only militarily possible. India has its own relation with Iran and North Korea. Yes, they can be partners for security maintenance but cannot be military alliance. Till now exercises are going on and after a while, India and US can look forward to joint operations in naval engagement.
India needs to have its own unique voice. India should safeguard its interest first and then forge partnerships. India has to go out and meet anyone which is going to help in nation building. India has to build its own strength. The security environment around India has never been conducive and threats to security have been persistent for half century. India should have the contradictory kind of tenure wherein when it comes to common issues, India can support and when it comes to sovereignty issues, India can defend.
Hence, India has to explain its foreign policy to its domestic audience as well as international audience saying that it has many layers when it comes to handling relations with japan, china, USA and Russia and what is India’s position when it comes to restructuring international institutions of governance like UN, UNCLOS. The foreign policy has to be multi-direction which will reflect India’s national interest first and not tow anyone’s line.
Connecting the dots:
- The ‘Quad’ is to ‘Counter China’. Does this international maritime security policy seem to be conducive when all the countries are strongly economically linked with China? Analyse.