In its recent itineration, the Quad (or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) has been toiling since 2017, through deliberations among mid-level and senior officials, to develop a common vision for the challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region, challenges caused by China's menacing rise and aggressive behaviour.
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The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) presents a unique opportunity to develop a Blue Economy, with security, sustainability and business profitability as its three pillars. An IOR Defence Ministers' Conclave held on 4 February provided a platform to discuss regional cooperation, linking development with defence, and emphasized India's pivotal position within the IOR.
Japan and India’s North East are culturally contiguous – and have been for centuries. From their monoliths and cenotaphs, to the sacred bamboo and house construction, the old similarities are now being carried into the future by the younger generation of North Easterners, who admire and seamlessly blend Japanese creative influences like anime, food and street style, into their own.
As 2021 opens, the post-COVID world can expect some changes in the geopolitics of Asia. It will involve altering equations in the Indo-Pacific among major, middle and small powers. These will fluctuate with characteristic familiarity, creating instability, tensions and strife, but not leading to military conflict – barring an unforeseen accident. Post-COVID, the world will be uncertain and complex.
Should the Quad be formalized? It has evolved from a crisis response group in 2004 to a strategic partnership today between the four member-countries – India, the U.S., Australia and Japan. There are benefits and challenges to the institutionalisation of the Quad which require timely analysis, especially as the group has renewed vigour this year with the COVID-19 pandemic and China’s aggression in the Indo-Pacific region.
Australia's much-awaited inclusion at the Malabar Exercise-2020 reflects a hard reset in India's foreign policy that was traditionally accommodative to Chinese concerns on the militarisation of the Quad. In the backdrop of the on-going stand-off with China at the Ladakh border, the Indian Navy has maintained a high operational tempo and deployed the highest numbers of frontline assets during this edition of the Malabar Exercise. India must build on this strategic vision and work towards including France at the next edition of Malabar in 2021.
The recently concluded ASEAN and EAS Summit saw Prime Minister Modi highlighting the Indo-Pacific region. That’s because a cohesive, responsive and prosperous ASEAN is seen as vital to India's Indo-Pacific Vision and to Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR). India’s decision to opt out of RCEP, even when all ASEAN member countries are signatories to that agreement, will mark a shift in how India enhances bilateral engagements with ASEAN nations with greater strategic intent.
On 21 October, Gateway House and the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi jointly hosted a webcast with Ambassador (Lt. Gen.) Karl Eikenberry, Sinologist, Deputy Chairman, NATO Military Committee; former Director of the U.S.-Asia Security Initiative at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University on the Growing Sino-American Military Rivalry
Now that the India-U.S. 2+2 meeting has ended, Indian officials are preparing for a hectic season of summiteering in November, from the SCO to the BRICS and the G20. All will give India global attention, and help the country prepare its positioning at home and abroad.
The Space20 is the newest sub-forum of the G20 initiated by Saudi Arabia, with the support of the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs. India, on its way to the G20 presidency in 2022, should set a comprehensive Space20 agenda for the democratization of outer space, whereby it can share its space growth story with the developing world and achieve its goal to become a global knowledge epicenter.