By Sajjad Shaukat for VT
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (ASD, also known as the Quad), comprising the United States, Japan, India, and Australia held a meeting in Bangkok in Thailand in the beginning of March, this year. The strategic meeting was attended by the senior officials of these countries who talked on their collective efforts for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, opposing China’s influence. They agreed for collective cooperation.
The Quad was initiated in 2007 by the then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his first term. Since 2014, discussions have been bolstered by the annual trilateral Malabar navel exercise among the US-Japan and India. It was widely perceived as part of a China containment strategy. After China issued formal diplomatic protests to its members, asking their intention, Australia withdrew from the Quad and the meetings ceased.
In 2018, the administration of the US President Donald J. Trump re-raised the concept as part of its ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ strategy. In deference to China, India objected to Australia’s inclusion in Malabar even though the naval exercise took place in US waters. As part of American double game, Admiral Phil Davidson, the head of the US Indo-Pacific Command has suggested that the Quad be shelve for now. Davidson elaborated that Indian navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba “made it quite clear that there wasn’t an immediate potential for a quad.” As Davidson stated, “there is limited appetite for operationalizing the Quad” presumably meaning the militarization of the arrangement. Indeed the concept–at least as a military alliance—is more likely to go the way of the dodo than rise from its ashes like a phoenix.
A Pentagon spokesperson explained that Davidson “was referring to a formal, regular meeting of military leaders from the four countries”. The spokesperson said such diplomatic meetings have been held three times since November 2017 and [will] continue.”
Reports suggest that recent conference activated the Quad members due to the fear of China, as Beijing also plays a major role in the region. In Australia, the national debate pits realists who foresee or accept the inevitability of China’s dominance and influence in Asia and on its society and values against idealists who are willing to risk the economic benefits to preserve Western values and existing international order.
However, the grouping of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue reappeared on the international stage in November 2017 after a ten-year hiatus. The grouping immediately garnered attention because of two things: the impressive characteristics of its participants—the largest economy in the world and top military spender, the third-largest economy, the fastest-growing economy and second-most populous country in the world, and a significant middle power.
The timing of its rebirth is linked with Sino-US trade and political conflict which have started heating up. Relations between China under Xi Jinping and the United States under Donald Trump were deteriorating rapidly in late 2017, and the reinstatement of the Quad was the first concrete step in the Trump administration’s strategy toward the Asia-Pacific region and the adjacent Indian Ocean (now renamed the Indo-Pacific strategy).
At the 4th Raisina Dialogue (A multilateral conference organized by the Indian foreign ministry) held in New Delhi on January 8, 2019, America’s Admiral Phil Davidson described the core of strategy in advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific. But, from the perspective of Russia, this strategy’s main goal is the containment of China and sabotage of Beijing’s efforts to reshape its surroundings in accordance with its increased capabilities and expanded interests. Though Moscow does not support all of Beijing’s initiatives and policies, it still sees China as a critical partner in its quest against the Western liberal order. Thus, Russia’s objections to the Quad are primarily driven by Chinese concerns. Nevertheless, such a stance may alienate Russia’s traditional partner India.
Russia’s reaction to the first meeting of the reinvigorated Quad, though negative, was very restrained: the concept behind the grouping was (and still is) too vague to make serious objections, but it was immediately perceived as contradicting Russia’s interests. Russian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Morgulov called it an American strategy aimed at “drawing dividing lines” between countries. Aside from an inherent inclination to see all US ideas as contrarian to Russia’s interests, there are several more cogent reasons as to why Moscow will likely never look at any positive aspects of the Quad or the Indo-Pacific concept as a whole.
Analysis of the Russian state-backed think-tank Valdai Club said: “Russian authorities perceive the Quad as a military axis within the US Indo-Pacific strategy”.
It is notable that in the recent past, despite Russian efforts to de-escalate India-Pakistan tensions, New Delhi has tried to down play it due to her hegemonic attitude and frustration with the outcome of standoff with Islamabad. Saner elements within India have already sounded skepticism with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ill-founded policy of ‘muscular approach’ vis-à-vis Pakistan. The Hindu newspaper on March 2, 2019 reported: “Reacting to reports that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had offered to mediate as well as provided a venue for talks between India and Pakistan, Indian Ambassador to Moscow Mr. Verma stated I want to emphasize that we did not receive a formal offer of mediation. And even we do, we will not accept it. So far, no country has offered to mediate in resolving the conflict…According to the statement of the Russian Ministery of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Mr. Lavrov had expressed Moscow’s readiness to promote the de-escalation of tensions and the lack of an alternative to resolving any differences between Islamabad and New Delhi by politico-diplomatic means.”
More recently during an interview with Sputnik News, DG ISPR, spokesman for Pakistani military, Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor explained the post Pulwama environment (False Flag terror attack in the Indian Occupied Kashmir) and appreciated Russian positive and proactive role in cooling down the hot environment created by Indian jingoism.
In this regard, DG ISPR highlighted, “We greatly value the relevance and importance of Russia in the region, especially what role Russia has lately played toward the Afghan reconciliation. Russia looks toward balance of power and multi-polarity in the world. We value Russia’s voice as the voice of reason, and we would love if Russia, being a powerful country, plays its role which enables bringing peace in South Asia and beyond. And we expect that Russia will do it, as the efforts in fact being undertaken by Russia are generating good results”.
Besides, it is pertinent to talk about how multilateralism in Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific is affecting the triangle of Russia-Pakistan-China and India. It may be of value to discern the underlining currents in the intellectual debate held in the Raisina Dialogue held in New Delhi.
One of the discussion forum with participation from Russian delegates representing prestigious think tanks was titled “The Arrival of Global Politics: Navigating a Multi-perspective World Order”, moderated by Feodor Lukyanov of Valdai Club and was participated by delegates from the US, India and China.
The Indian delegate Indrani Bagchi cherished the role being assigned to India in the Indo-Pacific as legitimate, while referring to Trump’s unilateralism and disruption, she allegedly equated it with disruption and unilateralism by blatantly saying that when Russia walked into Ukraine and China walked into South China Sea, there was unilateralism. Under the pretext, She also boasted that India will have Quad—the military cooperation mechanism, built upon participation from India, Japan, Australia and the US to make sure that India gains her strategic space in the Indo-Pacific and expand it further into West-Pacific and the gulfs connecting Indian ocean with Mediterranean and Africa.
Russian delegate Anton Tsvetov, advisor to Chairman Centre for Strategic Research talked about emerging concepts and initiatives like China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) and Eurasia, a version of Mega regional initiatives in the wider quest for managed globalization. He also added that the new dilemma facing states is not only inter-state, but also intra-state where states are becoming uncomfortable with chaotic forces within.
General Evgeny Buzhinsky from Russia proposed that any Strategic Arms Control mechanism in future will have to involve Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea as well, thus a Multilateral Arms control system was the only way the world could manage the Strategic Arms.
Chinese scholar Ms. Yang Yanyi observed that there was an apparent deficiency of wisdom in policy advisors and strategists in the West, especially those who propagate a new Cold War, disruption of global supply chain and erecting political obstacles to even cultural exchange and economic development.
Although it may be premature to comment on the feeling of Russian and Chinese delegates in Raisina Dialogue, yet they took the Indian thoughts with a pinch of salt, particularly when Indian delegate Ms. Indirani openly talked of Quad and tagged Russia and China with disruptive forces in one breath.
It is mentionable that Russia-Pakistan relations have now started crystallizing and have the potential to move beyond military cooperation. The idea of RUPACH (Russia-Pak-China), or Russia-Pakistan-China can be given a thought for intellectual debate, six important points for this debate are appended:-
The convergence of geopolitical and geo-economic interests of these states (RUPACH) is clearly discernable—whether it be the quest for collective security, terrorism emanating from Afghanistan-India-US nexus, opening of new strategic corridors of development or the drive for multilateral cooperation in checking the emerging realities in Indo-Pacific and the larger Eurasia, all points to commonality of interest.
Global geo-economic power grid has decisively shifted towards Eurasia, the region is no more dependent on Anglo American and Western dominance of world financial system; the region can stand on its own owing to existence of the production depository and market in one strategic space. The Pan-Eurasian big space as projected by the Russian President Vladimir Putin and Alexander Dugin is no more a dream, but a reality. Alexander Dugin who happens to be a trend-setter in Russian political thought, has maintained a respectable position in Russian hierarchy and happens to be an informal advisor to President Putin.
Global connectivity through internet and remote communication can allow free flow of ideas by using information technology; this phenomenal change has brought down the old barriers of language, faith, culture and even civilizations, leading to creation of fraternity of brotherhood and collective peace.
The region is also fed up and weary of perpetual wars and conflicts, the fraternity of brotherhood is no more zonked by cacophony of neo-liberalism and capitalism, the region needs someone to lead two billion people into a new era of peace, prosperity and inclusive development.
In this respect, those who projected the isolation of Pakistan may be frustrated; the morphing and mutation of the idea of RUPACH should be discussed in Pakistan as well as by the Russian and Chinese think tanks, including academia. It may not be farfetched to state that the idea of RUPACH, along with corridors of economic development like China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) or China’s OBOR may become the harbinger of peace for entire Eurasia.
Meanwhile, we can witness a contest between the contemporary traditionalist-imperialist block hiding behind the façade of neo-liberalism and the proponents of Eurasia; can RUPACH be the new kid on the block in the emerging order of nations?
America has established global dictatorship, with de-facto power to decide who is right and who is wrong and who should be punished. There is a need for global community to fight against it.
Therefore, the concept of RUPACH needs a strategic road map, some of the suggested points can be discussed through formal and informal channels, and a road map for next two decades can be charted to develop supporting strategies.
In this connection, the strategic areas of cooperation can be in many fields; however the important ones could be infrastructure development, energy,including strategic pipe lines and off shore exploration, mining, cultural exchanges, higher education, information technology, health sector, air corridors, maritime trade, agriculture and regional security. In these terms, CPEC has already paved the way for helping the Eurasian dream of regional integration, which could become the bedrock for RUPACH.
We can conclude that it is due to the above mentioned reasons that Russia and China Discern Indian Participation in the Anti-China-Anti-Eurasia Groupings.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is the author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org