By Dr. Zakir Husain
Much applauds to #quadsummit ‘s enlivenment on 12 March 2021. This is how Quad members and others who see it as a necessity to free Indo-Pacific from China, are patting their back.
Of course the behavior of China first with Australia and second with India has given much oxygen and reason to go with President Biden’s plan. However, there are few queries:
1. Whether Beijing was caught by surprise? Does it feel nervous? Or has it already calculated the cost?
2. How Quad plans to handle Russia? Do Quad members have any plan to engage Moscow and isolate Beijing or they too would be baffled if Beijing-Moscow further deepen their ties?
3. Isolation of Moscow is important. However it does not seem to be happening. This is apparent from growing cooperation between the two in space. MoonBase agreement vs Orbit Gateway is the latest example.
4. What does it mean when we call the Quad ready to muzzle China? How and at what cost- either waging limited conflicts at sea or planning to spread trade war or economic boycott of China? How much would it be effective?
5. At what cost Regional countries are ready to fully work with Quad agenda?
6. What economic options Quad gives to the East Asian countries. Already the US economy is in doldrums, Japan is looking towards China; India has refused to join RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) and nobody has come forward to compensate the Australian loss against Chinese economic action against Canberra. Till date it has been noticed that only the claimant powers in Indio-Pacific are active in the Quad, while the rest are simply avoiding ant-Chinese activities and ensuring their trade and investment flows. Further, it is not clear how the world economy responds as the resurgence of new Covid-19 strains in different parts of the world has once again subdued the economic spirit.
7. How much time Quad will take to educate and civilize China? This is very important. At the peak of the Cold War, the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republic) was just 40% of the US economy. And despite that it took too much time and much toll to the world. Still its reminiscent are troubling the world in the form of terrorism and anti-US-West feeling across the globe.
With this background, China has far more capacity than the USSR. It is technologically growing fast in both military and civil, while USSR was more in military and space and cyber and internet forces were missing. Economically China would be the largest economy in less than a decade, already it is the largest trading country and the number one economy in PPP term. It is holding the largest amount of US T-bills, while its BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) is connecting 2/3 of the globe into a potentially fast track multi-model reciprocal economic network. Beijing’s growing technology prowess in civil, space, cyber-world has already created tensions. China is posing so much domineering power that even the serious violation of Uyghurs has not provoked the concerned powers such as Turkey, Arab world, Pakistan against Beijing. Their silence might also be due to diminishing faith in US-West prowess to take some impactful measures. On the other hand, US-West cooperation is also appearing that much more robust. Moscow is working as a spanner between the US and the European countries. How much Quad can do in the pandemic-ridden world is tough to say.
8. These are some queries but major one is isolating Beijing from Moscow is fundamental to weaken China, otherwise Quad will be seen as US-West hegemonic Sino-Russian containment agenda and may lose its sheen and relevance as a united global platform.
9. If such an opinion gains momentum, it will also scare away India and China will get ample space to paint Quad as a US-West hegemonistic agenda to suppress the East and disturb the peaceful rise of Asia. Beijing may not hesitate to paint India partnering with this hegemonistic design. This will not be good for us.
Therefore, the motive of Quad simply seems different….. Maybe to bring China to work on their lines…. Such possibility has been clearly outlined by Indian Foreign Minister during the #IndiaTodayConclave that India won’t toe someone else’s policy agenda.
*Dr Zakir Husain is a political economist.