Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry and other ministers from Australia and Japan held a Trilateral Ministerial Meeting through videoconference on Supply Chains Resilience.

Joint Ministerial Statement adopted

  1. The Ministers reaffirmed their determination to take a lead in delivering a free, fair, inclusive, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment and in keeping their markets open.
  2. In light of the COVID-19 crisis and the recent global-scale changes in the economic and technological landscape, the Ministers underscored the necessity and potential to enhance the resiliency of supply chains in the Indo-Pacific region.
  3. Recognizing the pressing need for regional cooperation on supply chain resilience in the Indo- Pacific, the Ministers shared their intention to work toward the launch of a new initiative to achieve the objective through cooperation.
  4. The Ministers noted the important role of business and academia in realizing the objective.
  5. The Ministers called for other countries in the region, which share the afore-mentioned views, to participate in the initiative.”

Recently in news regarding India – Australia – Japan:

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad): U.S., India, Japan, and Australia

Parallel exercises in the Indo-Pacific recently, including a trilateral exercise between the U.S., Australia and Japan in the Philippines Sea, and an Indo-U.S. naval exercise in the Indian Ocean have fuelled speculation that Quadrilateral (Quad) exercises will be launched soon between all four navies.

Highlights regarding the “Quad”

  • Australia’s request has been pending for four years, to join the annual Malabar exercises with India, the U.S. and Japan.
  • China’s poses fierce opposition to the militarisation of a coalition seen as a counter to its claims in the Pacific and inroads in the Indian Ocean.
  • At the Shangri-La Dialogue, Indian Prime Minister had said that India sees the Indo-Pacific as a “geographical concept”, not a “strategy or a club of limited members”.
  • India is the only country in the Quad that shares a land boundary with China, and the militarisation of the Quad will not help India deal with that threat.
  • Unlike the U.S., Japan and Australia, which are tied by military alliances, India is a member of other strategic forums, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation with China, Russia and Central Asia, BRICS and RIC, which appear to be at cross purposes with a Quad alliance.

The China factor:

China’s recent moves of aggression were seen by many as the tipping point that makes India push the countries of the Quadrilateral Security Group, called the Quad for short, into a military embrace that will have far-reaching implications for regional and global security.

History of formation of Quad

  • Quad was originally born in an instant: from the crisis that followed the tsunami in 2004.
  • Within days of the disaster, India had mobilised an impressive fleet, and demonstrated to the world that it would not just manage its own rescue effort in Tamil Nadu and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands but could also provide assistance to its maritime neighbours: Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia.
  • The humanitarian and disaster relief efforts were coordinated in the next few weeks with three other naval powers engaged in the rescue effort: the U.S., Australia and Japan.

How did China see this formation?

  • China’s Navy had not at the time undergone its massive modernisation drive towards a blue water navy and the effort by the Quad countries was clearly an impetus to hasten the process.
  • The exercises and the strategic coordination between these countries rattled Beijing and Moscow, who termed it an attempt to build “an Asian NATO”.

Alternatives to BRI (Belt and Road Initiative)

  • The Quad grouping has met biannually discussing “connectivity, sustainable development, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation and maritime and cyber security, with a view to promoting peace, stability and prosperity in an increasingly inter-connected Indo-Pacific region”.
  • The emphasis on connectivity has seen the Quad challenge China in another sphere: a coordinated effort to provide financing and sustainable alternatives to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has led many nations to take loans and accept infrastructure bids from Beijing.
  • The counter has not yet made much headway, but each of of the Quad countries is coordinating their responses on infrastructure projects in their spheres of influence, including India and Australian efforts in the Pacific islands, India-U.S. coordination in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, and India-Japan joint efforts to develop projects in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
  • The military aspect of the Quad has also grown: India has strengthened its naval ties with each of the other Quad countries, and there have been more interactions, formal and informal at the official, political and military levels.
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