China has established a dominant presence in the Indo-Pacific through exploitative economic engagements. This has destabilised smaller nations in the region and made them dependent on Chinese support. For a free and open Indo-Pacific, India must press its advantage in human and economic capacity building.
Nine great powers and a number of important multilaterals have vested interests in the Indo-Pacific. Given the U.S.-China standoff in the region, the role of new groupings like the Quad and AUKUS is significant. The time is ripe for India to use its position in the region, and convert its humanitarian duties into economic and strategic opportunities in 2022.
A potential anti-Quad formation of China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan is in the making, and can pose risks to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. However, a close analysis of China's bilateral relationship with each country shows that this is a flawed grouping, formed on limited common interests and rivalries.
China’s escalating actions in the wake of the COVID-19 catastrophe is a calculated strategic diversion and risk. In the Indo-Pacific, tensions between China and the U.S., Australia, India and others are building momentum. As a geopolitical partnership, the relevance of the Quad is now proven. There are clear ways to empower it immediately, and make it a resilient grouping.