[Editorial Analysis] Quadrilateral home truths

Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: Quad group
Mains level: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests


• Regardless of how or when China’s misbegotten military adventure is going to wind down in Ladakh, one thing is clear:

• It has breathed(given) fresh life into the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue as a loose, consultative entente of like-minded democracies in the Indo-Pacific.

• On October 6, the foreign ministers of Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. held a standalone meeting in Tokyo.

• If the Quad is to prosper as a geopolitical construct, it would do well to heed four lessons drawn from the long arc of Asia’s history and geopolitics.

No Indo-Pacific system:

• First, there is no such thing as an ‘Indo-Pacific system’.

• There has never been one, as such, ever since the rise of the port-based kingdoms of Indochina in the first half of the second millennium.

• Rather, there were two Asian systems — an Indian Ocean system and an East Asian system — with intricate sub-regional balances.

• The sprawling British empire never managed to combine the Indo and the Pacific into a unitary system and the effort by a U.S. in global retreat and relative decline to artificially manufacture one to encircle China will be no more successful.

• Second, the Indo-Pacific region possesses no prior experience of enduring peace, prosperity and stability engineered from its maritime fringes.

• Rather, dynamic long cycles of Chinese influence radiating outwards have alternated with sharp periods of centripetal turmoil as China and the Asian system collapsed upon itself.

• The emerging practice of ASEAN-centred multilateralism is more in tune with regional tradition and historical circumstance than the post-18th century European ‘balance of power’ system.

• The ‘flanking powers’ (Britain and Russia) resisted revisionist challengers to periodically restore the continent’s equilibrium.

• For their part, the Indo-Pacific’s ‘flanking powers’, India and Japan, have never balanced Chinese power throughout their illustrious histories.

• Third, the sea lines of communication constitute the connective tissue that links the Indian Ocean to the Western Pacific.

• It is also a valuable arena of leverage vis-à-vis Chinese shipping and resource flows. This leverage must be wielded judiciously on India’s terms, not on the Quad’s terms.

• The latter, after all, has little to offer materially with regard to New Delhi’s continental two-front dilemma but ceding this chokepoint leverage will invite overwhelming Chinese pressure against the full range of India’s South Asian interests — to which the other Quad members possess neither will nor desire to answer.

• For the threat of interdiction to be credible furthermore, it must not be brandished off-handedly.

• Except during a general war, no sustained and significant campaign to interdict the maritime trade of a major power has ever been successfully mounted since the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th century.

A check on China’s ambitions:

• Finally, the Quad has a valuable role to play as a check on China’s Indian Ocean ambitions.

• India must develop ingrained habits of interoperable cooperation with its Quad partners and, thereby, pre-emptively dissuade China from mounting a naval challenge in its backyard.

• On the other hand, it will be more than a decade or two before the People’s Liberation Army Navy will be credibly capable of projecting power in these waters.

• The shores of the Indo-Pacific littoral are strewn with the bones of Cold War-vintage, pan-regional architectures that were divorced from the underlying security dynamics.

• The Quad must resist this temptation for precipitate design over purpose.

• In 2018, in his keynote address at the Shangri La Dialogue, Prime Minister noted that India would “work with [its friends] individually or in formats of three or more for a stable and peaceful region, but [that these] friendships are not alliances of containment”.

• Reconciling this capacity to resist armed revisionism while nudging the region’s geopolitics towards cooperation as opposed to conflict should be India’s, and the Quad’s, priority.


Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the “Graduated Return to Play” (GRTP), consider the following statements:

1. The SOP has been divided into three categories, based on an athlete’s virus load

2. Covid-19 positive and prolonged course (regional/systemic symptoms for more than 10 days) or severe symptoms that required hospitalisation are included under category 3.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: A

Mains Questions:

Q.1) What is QUAD grouping? Describe its role and significance.

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