- GS-2: Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
- GS-2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Context: The Quad, which comprises the U.S., Japan, Australia and India been described by the U.S. as having “essential momentum and important potential”.
India’s engagement with QUAD
- China’s action: India’s engagement with the Quad goes back to China’s expanding footprint in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region over the last few years. China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative was viewed as encroachments into India’s strategic space.
- India’s reaction: India responded with an upgradation of its naval capabilities and enhancement of ties with the Indian Ocean Region littoral states and other major powers in the region.
- Shared Concern with USA: Largely as a result of their shared concerns relating to the rise of China, India has been deepening its security ties with the U.S. focused on interoperability of defence equipment and training based on defence purchases, frequent land and sea exercises.
How has the grouping evolved over time?
- Initial Reluctance: India’s involvement with the Quad was initially cautious due to its reluctance to join an overt anti-China coalition.
- Expanded the scope: Since November 2017, the joint naval exercises of Quad members are being supplemented by extensive consultations on security issues.
- Elevation to Ministerial level: In September 2019, India agreed to elevate the Quad platform to ministerial level.
- Possibility of Summit level: It is reported Quad would soon meet at summit level in 2021 thus signalling the importance attached to this grouping by the US administration.
Concerns for India
- Pulled into ambit of Indo-Pacific: The U.S.’s focus on the west Pacific due to aggressive Chinese maritime activity gradually pulled India into the ambit of the Indo-Pacific that views the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean as an integrated geopolitical space.
- India’s Security concerns ignored: By affiliating with the U.S.-led maritime coalition, India ignored the principal areas of its security concerns in northern borders. Recently with border clashes, China has given India a rude reminder that India’s security concerns lie in its northern borders, not the west Pacific.
- Divergence with US: New Delhi and Washington see eye to eye on maritime strategy, but not on what to do on the Asian mainland.
- Structural Issues due to QUAD’s pivot to US: The Quad has a core structural problem as well in that it pivots around the U.S. The U.S. is a super-power with global interests, but it is also self-centred in defining and pursuing its interests, even as its policies experience major shifts due to government change or domestic lobbies
- Doesn’t have strategic vision: Despite rhetoric relating to the promotion of a ‘rules-based’ world order (the rules being most frequently violated by the U.S. itself), the Quad neither shares a strategic vision nor is it animated by a shared agenda.
India’s foreign policy has often been ad hoc, reactive and short term, reflecting the absence of a broad strategic culture. As the global scenario gets more complex and India’s ambitions increase, a cohesive strategic vision would give substance and drive to India’s pursuit of its interests over the long term.
Connecting the dots: