Quad approaches Indo-Pacific nations to contain China

Quad approaches Indo-Pacific nations to contain China

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with ASEAN leaders attends the ASEAN-India Informal Breakfast Summit, in Singapore, on Thursday. PTI

India on Thursday joined United States, Japan and Australia to reach out to the other nations in Indo-Pacific region, with offers for partnering with them to counter the hegemonic aspirations of China.

The diplomats of India, US, Japan and Australia met on the sideline of the East Asia Summit in Singapore for consultation on Indo-Pacific. They agreed to “partner with other countries and forums in the region to promote a free, open, rules-based and inclusive order in the Indo-Pacific that fosters trust and confidence”, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) stated in a press release here.

The calls for a “free and open Indo-Pacific” as well as for “rules-based order” in the region are among the phrases, which have often been used by the international community to oppose China's moves to spread its geo-strategic influence in the region and beyond, particularly through its controversial Belt-and-Road Initiative.

The meeting among the diplomats of India, US, Japan and Australia in Singapore on Thursday was the third of its kind after the four nations re-launched the 'Quad' in Manila in November 2017 — ostensibly to create a bulwark of democratic nations to contain communist China in Indo-Pacific.

The diplomats of the four nations on Thursday once again reaffirmed the centrality of the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) as “the cornerstone of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific” — apparently to allay the concerns that the Quad might undermine the 10-nation bloc in the region.

Several South East Asian nations frowned upon the move by India, US, Japan and Australia to revive the Quad, which had first come into existence in 2007 but had fizzled out soon. Russia too had conveyed to India and the other nations its opposition to the revival of the Quad.

The discussions among the diplomats of India, US, Japan and Australia in Singapore on Thursday focused on cooperation in areas such as connectivity, sustainable development, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation and maritime and cybersecurity — to promote “peace, stability and prosperity in an increasingly inter-connected Indo-Pacific region that the four countries share with each other and with other partners”, stated the MEA.

They also committed to “strengthening connectivity and quality infrastructure based on sovereignty, equality and territorial integrity of all nations, as well as transparency, economic viability and financial responsibility”.

New Delhi has been opposing the ambitious cross-continental Belt and Road Initiative of China. India is particularly opposed to the BRI's flagship component China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which will link Kashgar in Xinjiang in north-western China and a deep sea port at Gwadar in Balochistan in south-western Pakistan.

New Delhi has been opposed to the corridor, as it is proposed to pass through parts of Kashmir that India claims as its own and accuses Pakistan of illegally occupying it. The BRI is also drawing flak from around the world for its controversial financing mechanism, which allegedly makes the participating nations land in the death trap of China.

China has been accused by US, Japan and other nations of undermining the “rules-based order” in Indo-Pacific.

The communist country's territorial disputes with its maritime neighbours in East and South China Sea and its reluctance to resolve the disputes in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS) often prompted the US and the other nations, not only to criticize it for not adhering to the international laws and flexing military muscles, but also to call for “rules-based order” in Indo-Pacific.