Despite Western pressure, India will be able to hold firm in Tokyo
The third Quad summit on May 24 in Tokyo takes place in the shadow of the conflict in Ukraine. The US, EU and NATO are all consumed by this conflict to the exclusion of almost everything else.
The West is trying to create a global front against Russia, even going so far as to call out and threaten China not to support Russia economically or militarily. India has also come under pressure to condemn Russia for its aggression against Ukraine, reduce its military ties with Russia, not violate Western sanctions imposed on the country and, specifically, not to buy oil. discounted Russian or make payments via a rupee ruble arrangement. Undue pressure on India has not been exerted, however, because of India’s almost indispensable role in any viable Indo-Pacific strategy of which Quad is a concrete face.
During his recent visit to Europe – which is in the eye of the Ukrainian storm – Prime Minister Narendra Modi managed to maintain India’s independent stance on Ukraine without affecting the positive progress of Indo-European relations. That Modi managed a summit with the Nordic countries, when two of them – Finland and Sweden – were already preparing to give up their traditional neutrality and apply for NATO membership, says a lot. on the growing recognition in Europe – and by extension in the West – of the need to accommodate India geopolitically to some degree.
This suggests that although President Biden has described India’s position on Ukraine within the Quad as fragile, India will be able to hold its own in Tokyo. In the joint statements with Denmark, the Nordic countries and France, the difference in respective positions on Ukraine emerged, with the European side separately stating its own position condemning Russia and the consensus paragraph taking into account the evolved position of India. It is reasonable to assume that even with the presence of the United States in Tokyo, India will be able to maintain the language it accepted during Modi’s European visit.
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China and Beyond: The Quad Agenda
This does not mean that the United States will not continue within Quad and outside to push for a change in India’s position on Ukraine as part of a broader effort to bring Western India. Kurt Campbell, White House Indo-Pacific Coordinator, in a May 9 speech at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, highlighted the administration’s coordination with Europe to that end. “One of the things that is clearly going on between the United States and Europe is the desire to engage India more fundamentally,” he said. “In this new strategic context, India is in many ways a swinging state, and…it is in all of our interests to try to work over time to bend its trajectory further west.”
In February this year, the United States announced its policy of supporting “India’s continued rise and regional leadership”, delivering Quad’s “enormous” potential and promise, and promoting “open technology , resilient, secure, and trustworthy, including 5G, Open RAN, and cubed capability.” as a region of particularly intense competition”.
It would harm the purpose and cohesion of the Quad if issues outside the Indo-Pacific are put on the agenda. The Quad was never intended as a counterpoint to Russia in the Indo-Pacific region. Russia is undoubtedly an Indo-Pacific power geographically, politically and militarily. It is part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), has a naval fleet in Vladivostok and a territorial dispute with Japan over the sovereignty of the Kuril Islands. It has military ties with some ASEAN countries in the area of arms supply, it has traditional political and military ties with Vietnam in particular. In October 2021, it conducted maritime exercises with China in the Western Pacific for the first time, circling Japan’s main island of Honshu.
However, the genesis and evolution of Quad has everything to do with China’s activities in the South and East China Seas, its militarization of the South China Sea islands, and the assertion of illegal claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea. Western Pacific in violation of the United Nations Law Convention. of the Sea (UNCLOS). Beyond that, the Quad has a much broader agenda that covers other challenges that China presents, including those that have come to the fore during the pandemic regarding overreliance on China for supply chains and critical raw materials, China arming them for political reasons, its dual-use connectivity projects under its massive Belt and Road initiative, and the challenges China presents in areas of critical technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, semiconductors, 5G and 6G, etc. All of these diverse issues are on the Quad’s agenda, including climate change, COVID vaccines, illegal fishing, disaster relief, connectivity, etc., for which three working groups in specific areas have been set up. place at a previous summit.
The quadruple ballot
The summit will no doubt assess the progress made in implementing its agenda. The newsletter does not look impressive. India’s production plan for one billion doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccine for Indo-Pacific countries has not progressed far enough and the outlook is not bright as the issue of vaccine shortages in this region seems have been widely discussed, besides some issues in the US with FDA approvals for this US vaccine in question.
On matters of technology, no quick results can be obtained. India intends to develop its domestic semiconductor manufacturing capability. It remains to be seen what impetus the Quad can provide for this ambition, as well as in other identified cutting-edge technology areas where private sector collaboration will be essential, with government facilitation in terms of incentives, regulatory processes, etc The AUKUS agenda also covers some of the high tech areas that are on the Quad’s agenda, which may cast doubt on which forum will take priority. However, India’s impressive capabilities in the IT sector, which can be leveraged for the common benefit of the Quad countries, along with the country’s massive digitization agenda, would make India an attractive partner.
It is likely that at the Quad summit the issue of global food security following the Ukrainian crisis will be raised. The United States has already announced that it will discuss this issue in the UN Security Council and persuade India to allow wheat exports.
The larger question is how much attention the United States can reasonably give to the Indo-Pacific and the Quad given the priority it places on its confrontation with Russia. As the United States announces that it has the capacity to deal with threats from Russia and China at the same time, pointing to the organization of the United States-ASEAN summit in Washington, Biden’s visit to Asia from the East and the convening of the Quad summit as proof that the protracted Ukrainian crisis will test American abilities to support two fronts.
The United States believes that the power of its draconian sanctions against Russia has been demonstrated and China can only see this because its dependence on Western markets and finance is much greater than that of Russia. and it has much more to lose in a confrontation with the West. That Germany, China’s biggest partner in Europe, has been brought to heel over Russia indicates that with the changing mood on China in Europe, Germany may also come under pressure on its relations with China. The United States also seems to think that the reaction of the United States, the EU and NATO to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will cause China to rethink any plan to militarily coerce Taiwan.
While the United States continues to speak harshly with China and the latter misses no opportunity to retaliate, on the ground the United States has reportedly already lifted 68% of the tariffs imposed by Trump on Chinese exports to the United States. States and there is currently a fight between the Secretary of the Treasury to lower tariffs further to control inflation in the United States and the United States Trade Representative who opposes it. That the United States needs to call on China not to come to Russia’s aid shows that its hand is not as strong as it wants to believe. The contact with Venezuela also shows that the United States is ready to compromise to mitigate the consequences of its own punitive sanctions against Russia.
The security component of the Quad has arguably been watered down by the emergence of AUKUS, which will be the forum for developing a range of advanced military technologies to amplify the collective forces of the three partner nations to deter China. That Japan was invited to join AUKUS has been denied by the White House, but if such a decision were to be made – unlikely due to AUKUS’ nuclear dimension and Japan’s pacifist constitution – it would change the nature of Quad, even if the maritime sector dimension of Quad will remain, because there can be no viable Indo-Pacific strategy covering the Indian Ocean without India.
China’s success in gaining a foothold in the Solomon Islands has galvanized US peace strategy. Biden addressed the Pacific Islands Forum earlier this year. Japan and Australia are undoubtedly worried about the Chinese coup in the Solomons. For India too, such Chinese successes are precursors to a greater Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean.
In October 2021, Biden announced the United States’ intention to develop an Indo-Pacific economic framework covering trade facilitation, standards for the digital economy and technology, supply chain resilience, decarbonization and clean energy, infrastructure, labor standards, etc. An important part of this initiative is already covered in the Quad agenda. It is clear that discussions in the Quad cannot be isolated from this more ambitious US agenda, significant parts of which India says should be part of WTO discussions and some should not be related to trade issues. . India’s outlook on the Quad agenda in these areas will need to be adjusted accordingly.
The Ukraine crisis has upended global geopolitics like almost never before since the demise of the Soviet Union, with implications for the Quad as well.
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Kanwal Sibal is India’s former foreign minister. He served as India’s Ambassador to Turkey, Egypt, France and Russia. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the position of this publication.
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