June 05, 2022

Outcomes of the QUAD Meeting

R Arun Kumar

THE month of May ended with a flurry of diplomatic activity from the US side in the Asia-Pacific region. Starting from US President Joe Biden, US administration officials made a beeline to our part of the world. Apart from his bilateral visits to Japan and Republic of Korea (RoK, South Korea), Biden’s time was occupied in meeting the leaders of Quad in Tokyo, launching a new initiative – the Indo-Pacific Economic Forum for Prosperity (IPEF). Given the war in Ukraine and NATO’s involvement, it is natural to be surprised with this high-level flurry of US activities in the region. The answer lies in US’ anxiety over the growth of China and its efforts to build alliances to counter it.

In a speech made by Antony J Blinken, secretary of state, amidst elite audience in Washington on May 26, he clearly stated: “Even as President Putin’s war continues, we will remain focused on the most serious long-term challenge to the international order – and that’s posed by the People’s Republic of China. China is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it…Under President Xi, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has become more repressive at home and more aggressive abroad…But we cannot rely on Beijing to change its trajectory. So we will shape the strategic environment around Beijing to advance our vision for an open, inclusive international system”. This is in fact bringing into affect the Indo-Pacific strategic document it had released in February 2022 (as commented in detail in the earlier issues of the People’s Democracy). It is to achieve these strategic objectives that the recently held bilateral meetings and Quad summit were used.

The Quad summit announced a new maritime domain awareness initiative, the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA). According to Blinken, the IPMDA is for enabling their partners across the region to ‘better monitor the waters near their shores to address illegal fishing and protect their maritime rights and their sovereignty’. According to the fact sheet released by the White House on the Quad summit, “it will allow tracking of “dark shipping” and other tactical-level activities, such as rendezvous at sea…Extending support for information-sharing across existing regional fusion centers, such as the Information Fusion Center-Indian Ocean Region, based in India”.

The US clearly stated that the IPMDA is “to bring India and the United States together”. It is clear that this measure is intended to exercise control over the movement of naval ships in these waters, particularly the Chinese ships. Indian infrastructure as the Information Fusion Centre is being used for these purposes.

On the sidelines of the Quad summit, a meeting of the development finance institutions and agencies of the four countries (US, Japan, India and Australia) was also held. This was with the ostentatious purpose of strengthening “stronger engagement with the private sector” and enable “industry partners to discuss business and investment issues”. Though formulating measures to counter climate change is stated as the reason, the intentions are clear. Significantly, the White House readout notes the launch of: “A Quad Investors Network, an independent consortium of investors that seeks to advance access to capital for critical and emerging technologies within and across the Quad”. This should be read with what follows below.

An understanding was reached to coordinate and strengthen the Quad Cybersecurity Partnership. To take this further, the first-ever Quad Cybersecurity Day was also announced. This is intended to increase the exchange of cyber data between the four members of the Quad and coordinate their activities in the cyber domain. In these days where data is not only knowledge, but also a weapon, it is no wonder to what uses will the data collected by the governments would be put to. Surveillance will be a crucial aspect. More than that, exchange of crucial data will be compromising not only our individual freedoms, but would also put the sovereignty of our country at jeopardy.

Further, the Quad meeting opened up avenues to exchange the satellite data between the four countries by providing a “Quad Satellite Data Portal” that “aggregates links to our respective national satellite data resources. We will work together to develop space applications, including in the area of Earth observations”. The US is increasingly weaponising space and is trying to colonise space by encouraging its private capitalists (like Elon Musk) to launch hundreds of small satellites around the planet. This congestion of orbital space around Earth is slowly becoming a highly contested issue. It is in this background, we have to view these developments.

Prime minister Narendra Modi had compromised our strategic interests in the Quad meeting. In his remarks before the press after the bilateral meeting he had with Biden, he brought down the curtains on independent foreign policy. He gleefully announced that Indian interests are tied with those of the US. “The India-America strategic partnership is, in the true sense, a partnership of trust. Our common interests – our common interests in defense and other relations – in defense and other matters, and our shared values, have indeed strengthened this bond of trust between our two countries…We’re also increasing bilateral cooperation in the domain of technology.  And even on global issues, we cooperate closely. We both share similar views on the Indo-Pacific…The Quad and the IPEF are two important examples of this cooperation”. The explicit mention of ‘defence relations’ is to be noted here.

The White House readout after the bilateral meeting was even more explicit. It stated: “The leaders (Biden and Modi) reviewed the progress made in the US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership. They committed to deepen our Major Defense Partnership, encourage economic engagement that benefits both countries”. More damagingly, we got to know from the US that “The two countries announced India’s joining the Combined Military Forces-Bahrain as an associate member”. This in itself shows the extent to which our defence interests are being aligned with the US. This is yet another example of US efforts to wean India away from Russia and increase its dependence on the US and its allies like Israel for all its defence needs. No wonder that within a week of the conclusion of Quad, the Israeli defence minister is in India to conclude defence deals.

The White House also announced that the National Security Councils of the two countries also entered an agreement to launch a ‘United States-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET), to expand partnership in critical and emerging technologies’. Under this partnership, India would be allowing the US to join and access six of India’s ‘Technology Innovation Hubs to support at least 25 joint research projects in 2022 in areas such as artificial intelligence and data science’. These measures instead of benefiting, would certainly harm our interests.

Many commentators have already pointed out that the IPEF, announced by Biden, in the presence of Modi and other leaders of various countries is hollow in details. It was remarked by them that this would not benefit the countries in our region, because it does not bring anything new for them in terms of investment, technology or market access. However, the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan pointed out (May 23) to its real objective: “Finally – and I think this is really critical – this is a foundational element of our overall strategy towards the Indo-Pacific. We believe that IPEF brings shape and coherence to the economic pillar of our Indo-Pacific strategy. We think it sets us up for success in helping to shape the future of the region…We all know that economics is a critical part of succeeding with any strategy in the Indo-Pacific region.  And we see IPEF as a vital platform for our engagement and a chance, alongside all of the other ways in which we have elevated our engagement in the Indo-Pacific, to put our stamp on this critical region for decades to come”.

US Secretary of State Blinken further clarifies: “And we’re standing up new coalitions to deliver for our people and meet the tests of the century ahead. Nowhere is this more true than in the Indo-Pacific region, where our relationships, including our treaty alliances, are among our strongest in the world”. He explained that the US’ ‘new approach’ called ‘integrated deterrence’ is sought to be achieved by “bringing in allies and partners; working across the conventional, nuclear, space, and informational domains; drawing on our reinforcing strengths in economics, in technology, and in diplomacy”.

The ‘people’ mentioned by Blinken are not ordinary people of the world or even the US. They are the huge corporates whose interests drive the US. The ‘tests of century’, he talks about are the challenges confronting the capitalist system both from within the US and also from various countries around the world. And for capitalism, socialism is always a threat. Any scent of socialist ideas gaining currency is bound to instill fears in the minds of capitalists and will make them cuddle together to save their hegemony. This is what is sought to be done through Quad, all other such alliances and announcements made as outcomes of those meetings.

It is high time that the common people are made aware that for their lives to be bettered, we have to unite and fight all those forces that are detrimental to our peace, prosperity and progress. Quad and alliance with the US is not at all beneficial to us.