The Quad goes after China: Statesman contributor

NEW DELHI (THE STATESMAN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, terms the Quad as four great liberal democracies in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Quad of course comprises India, the US, Australia and Japan. The first question to be asked is how the US is a democracy in the Indo-Pacific region.

The US is a Pacific power and an Atlantic power, but it is certainly not an Indo-Pacific power even though it projects and pretends itself to be one.

The second of course is how liberal a democracy Japan is when it is still a vassal state of the US, with its defence and foreign policies being determined by the Americans.

The Quad is going after China. China now is the number one power in the world. Twenty years of mindless and pitiless war has left America enfeebled. No American now claims victory in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Sure the US is still a military power to be reckoned with, but the world has lost fear of it. Witness Iran.

Iran reportedly has at least fissile material ready in the basement for two bombs. It wants the crippling sanctions that the US has imposed on it to be lifted, so it wants to talk to the US. It will pretend that it doesn’t want the bomb.

The US will try to suss out Iran’s bombs through inspections. But Iran is a much larger country than Iraq, where inspections brought up nothing, and has many nuclear sites, some known and yet others unknown.

If Iran has the bomb, it will certainly not give it up. Checkmate the US and its allies – Israel and the Sunni Gulf states.

All the while America has been waging war, China has been busy beefing itself up. It has been building up Africa while importing raw materials from there.

Made in America (and Make in India) have not really taken off because the Chinese have become the factory floor of the world.

It seems like most anything you find in America now is built in China. China provides over a trillion dollars in loans to America. How can America think of waging war against China, or even trying to contain it?

Morrison’s Australia too is stuck with China. His country exports tons of material and other goods like wine to China.

His economy too is hopelessly dependent on China. Out of the Quad, the only country that has real historical animosity with China is Japan, but it has to break the shackles of the US if it has to take on China.

What is India doing in the Quad? India is fascinated with anything America does. America wants to create a new enemy in China, so India must follow its example. India has a limited border dispute with China, nothing to fight a large-scale war over.

For millennia, India and China have had amicable relations. Fa-Hien and Hsuan- Tsang were Chinese Buddhist monks who visited India about fifteen hundred years ago to gain knowledge of Buddhist scriptures.

How can we even think of fighting with the Chinese?

Firstly, the Chinese are in much better shape than us in almost every sphere. India is the world’s biggest vaccine maker but it is the Chinese who have captivated the world with their vaccine diplomacy. The dragon sprints while the elephant continues to plod on.

The Quad is irritating China. In case war erupts between India and China, only Japan might join in. The white nations – the US and Australia – will stay away.

Why? Because neither of them is in position to take on China. America is too enfeebled to take on the mighty dragon, and Australia is too small. There goes the Quad.

Why is India needling the Chinese by joining the Quad? Since long, India’s diplomacy has been to join any and every multilateral forum that will have it. It’s part of the G20.

It wants to be part of the UN permanent security council as well as the nuclear suppliers group. Sometimes it seems that its foreign policy has just one single-minded objective – to stymie Pakistan over Kashmir.

Note that in 2017 it joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which was founded by China and is heavily dominated by it.

So while we have become part of an anti- China grouping like the Quad, we are also members of a pro-Chinese organisation like the SCO. What kind of confusing diplomacy is this?

China now is the number one power in the world and India has much to gain by befriending it, and not vexing it. Foxconn, Apple’s long-term manufacturer in China, is now building Apple phones in India.

Indian industry just doesn’t have the nous to rival Foxconn and build Apple phones on its own, so isn’t it welcome that Foxconn is moving part of its production to India?

Foxconn is going to build the latest iPhone, the iPhone 12, in Tamil Nadu, and is likely to shift 7-10 per cent of its production capacity from China to India.

India can do so much to foster such deals with the Chinese, but that is only when it stops playing a double game with them.

There is no harm if India has to play second fiddle to China for the next decade or two. Cooperation with the US for the last three decades has frankly not given us much. Working with China will give us much more.

We must not let the US fire its guns against China over our shoulders.

The writer is an expert on energy and contributes regularly to publications in India and overseas. The Statesman is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.

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