By Haider Abbas
There is an eyeball to eyeball between North Korea and South Korea, which by extension means between China and US, all the while as Russia-Ukraine war is raging, since February with no sign of ceasefire yet, while at the same time, there is an aggressive posture from US led QUAD in the Indo-Pacific which is gaining snarls from Beijing. QUAD is a Japanese conceptualized group, which consists US, India, Australia and Japan, and its main strategic and security agenda to contain China. It has been reported by Indiaweekly.biz that ‘Malabar wargame featuring Quad nations begins off Japanese island Yokosuka. The Malabar exercise featuring the navies of all four Quad countries — India, US, Australia and Japan — began on Wednesday (9) off the Yokosuka island near the East China Sea in the backdrop of China’s increasing military muscle-flexing in the region.
Indian Naval ships Shivalik and INS Kamorta have been deployed for the 10-day high-voltage exercise being hosted by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). The opening ceremony of the exercise was attended by commander of Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet Rear Admiral Sanjay Bhalla; commander in chief of Self Defense Fleet of Japanese Navy Vice Admiral Yuasa Hideki; commander of US Navy’s Seventh Fleet Vice Admiral Karl Thomas; and commander of Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Jonathan Earley. “The multilateral exercise Malabar between the navies of India, Japan, US and Australia began today with an opening ceremony hosted by the JMSDF onboard JS Hyuga at Yokosuka,” said a spokesperson of the Indian Navy.’ Last yet too the same exercises were played too. Malabar coast lies on the southeastern part of India, in Kerala.
QUAD has named the latest display of strength as its mega war-games for ‘free and open’ Indo-Pacific, on the kick-start of the Malabar exercise and have flexed muscles in direction to China, which has been engaged with US over Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific from quite some time before. The top notch drills of these four nations, are now a formidable combination to blunt the teeth of China, which considers Taiwan as its part while US and the West support Taiwan’s efforts for independence from China. This counter move from QUAD is surely an outcome, and came within a month, against what may be termed as the ‘aggressive moves’ from China, as a part of reflection of the latest 48 paged document released by US as its National Security Policy on October 12. US President Joseph Biden administration had put a lot-of-focus on the Indo-Pacific region.
China has every reason to be irked by QUAD steps, as it has civilizational issues with Japan, has border disputes with India, engaged in a war of supremacy with US and looks Australia as a US extension, and with India added to QUAD, has hurt China where its sours the most, as India and China had gone to war in 1962 and since the last five-decades have more or less remained estranged to each other, the latest conflagration came in May 2020 when in Galwan valley (Ladakh) , India lost 20 and China its five soldiers in a skirmish. It may also be known that an year earlier in August 2019, India had abrogated the special-status accorded to Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh, under Article 370 of its Constitution, which had left China red.
In fact QUAD has termed the whole development as coming together of four democracies, which is yet another snigger at China which is not a democracy, and in its way, has thrown an open challenge to China’s expansive maritime claims in the region, and also an window of opportunity to India to showcase its naval strength and ship building capabilities. Ironically, it has come when China has docked its Spy-Ship Yuan Wang VI in the Indian Ocean to tap into data-details of the forthcoming ballistic missile test to be undertaken by India. China has time and again at United Nations Security Council (UNSC) raised the issue of nuclear carrying warhead Agni-V missile of India. There have been reports that China does not miss any chance to keep a track into anything where India pertains to score over it in terms of military prowess.
What is ironic is that such QUAD signaling has come at a very precarious time as US President Joseph Biden is facing a tough challenge from the outgoing President Donald Trump, and US is having midterm election, while Russia and Ukraine war is still raging, and which, US, European Union or NATO has not been able to stop, or turn into Ukraine favour. India’s has till date maintained a striking balance between US and Russia and has not condemned Russia’s war on Ukraine, moreover, India’s EAM S Jaishankar on his visit to Moscow, on November 9, also has made it abundantly clear, to US, that energy-needs are a number-one priority of India and India will keep-on to buy cheap oil from Russia, despite the US opposition to it. But, what is also important is that Russia has also expressed its open displeasure over India’s presence inside QUAD. Notwithstanding, the China ‘fuming’ over it.
Moreover, the latest statement by India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to snatch Gilgit Baltistan from Pakistan side of Kashmir, on October 29, and that Indian march of development is to continue in North, also assumes significance, as it is the place where China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), passes through, and it is on the behest of China, that the outgoing PM of Pakistan Imran Khan, had made it as Pakistan’s fifth province. How will China and Pakistan situate to India’s stand is what time is to tell, and how will Russia stand when it would come between China and India is what is all to be found. But, going by the way QUAD has pulled-its war-game, as a continuation of US high profile Senator Nancy Pelosi and UK International Trade Minister Greg Hand, visits to Taiwan, the tide does not seem to be easy for China, while it is locked with India in the Himalayas too.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and writes on international politics.