Source: The Hitavada      Date: 14 Nov 2017 11:30:38

THE first step taken by India, Australia, Japan and the US towards formation of a quadrilateral to counter China’s growing military influence in the Indo-Pacific region is of great significance. The idea of having a new body was discussed on the sidelines of ASEAN and East Asia Summit at Manila, the Philippines capital. The move to set up a quadrilateral is significant for India because, it has refused to join China’s One Belt and One Road Initiative (OBOR), the pet project of China’s supreme leader President Mr. Xi Jinping, to build trade routes between China and Central Asia, Africa, Europe and Indo-Pacific countries. Though several countries have agreed to participate in the project, India has refused to join it as it passes through the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, ignoring its concerns on sovereignty. India’s stand was supported by the US, which is also equally wary of China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean and the disputed South China Sea.

The idea to have a separate body of nations to counter China germinated long back. India, the US and Japan already have a trilateral dialogue mechanism. Now, Australia has also agreed to be part of the quadrilateral, giving it a gravitas. With four democratic countries coming together for a common cause, the quadrilateral will have a great moral impact on the world. China has already become wary of the move.

There is a basic difference between the two projects. While China is undertaking the OBOR project with a view to serve its own economic and military interests, exploit world’s resources to the fullest and tighten its grip over the world and become a sole dominant force, the objective of the quadrilateral is to ensure promotion of peace, stability and prosperity, respect international law, freedom of navigation and countering challenges of terrorism besides upholding maritime security in the Indo-Pacific.

China is trying to pressurise neighbouring countries and expand its territory by staking claim on their land, on the basis of its military strength, be it India, Vietnam, Japan or the Philippines. Time and again, it tries to rake up territorial disputes with all these countries. It tried the same trick recently with India over Doka La issue. However, India stood firm on its stand, forcing China to make a retreat. China is also stalling the United Nations move to declare Pakistan based Masood Azhar a global terrorist. China is hobnobbing with Pakistan to create trouble for India. It has developed Gwadar port in Pakistan’s Balochistan, and stationed warships, posing a security threat to India. It has also built China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in the region, making swift movement of troops from the mainland to India’s border possible.

India has taken steps to counter China by developing Chabahar Port in Iran, getting an easy access to Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and many other countries in the Gulf. However, the world leaders felt the need to have a robust entity to counter China. Hence, the move to form a quadrilateral of the US, Japan, India, and Australia.

The idea to have a new block to counter China was floated during the regime of the former President of the US Mr. Barack Obama. The US had held preliminary talks with India, to have a stronger body, other than the ASEAN, to counter China. His successor, Mr. Donald Trump, who revoked Mr. Obama’s several policies, supported this initiative, indicating his determination to counter China’s growing influence. The US, Japan, Australia and India joining hands to counter China is no doubt a significant step taken in the interest of world peace.