Quad : Should India back-off? – UPSC GS2

Utility: Direct question can be asked on this topic. It can be used in answers on India-China, India-USA, Indo-Pacific, String of Pearls, Foreign Relations etc.
  • The stand-off at Ladakh has shown the limits of India-U.S. security ties and India’s involvement in the Quad. Should India increase involvement in Quad?
How India joined the QUAD?
China’s encroachment & India’s response
  • China was expanding its footprint in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region over the last few years.
  • Thus, India required an up-gradation of its naval capabilities and enhancement of ties with the Indian Ocean Regio n littoral states and other major powers in the region.
  • Later, due to the shared concerns relating to the rise of China, India-U.S. security ties deepened, For example,
    • Focus on Interoperability of defence equipment and training based on defence purchases,
    • Conducting frequent land and sea exercises,
    • The signing of agreements to harmonize the two countries’ military doctrines and operations.
  • The deepening relationship with the US gradually pulled India into the ambit of the Indo-Pacific. (Indo-Pacific is a concept that views the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean as an integrated geopolitical space.)
  • Thus India joined the QUAD to expand its maritime ties with other regional states such as Japan, Australia.
What is the consequence of India’s involvement in QUAD?
  • By joining with the U.S.-led maritime coalition, India ignored the principal areas of its security concerns.
  • In the words of Shivashankar Menon, by joining QUAD India emphasized more focus on maritime borders. But had no clues on how to protect its borders on the mainland.
  • The shifting of India’s alignment with the U.S. and its allies made China respond strongly by engaging in direct confrontation at our territorial borders.
  • This resulted in the border face-off in Ladakh, from April 2020. By doing so China has reminded t India that its security concerns lie in its northern borders, not the west Pacific.
Why India should limit its involvement with QUAD?
  • India is the only Quad member that is not in the west Pacific. It is also the only one that shares an un-demarcated 3,500-km land border with China. So, any developments will have more impact on India-China relation. For example, Ladakh standoff.
  • Quad neither shares a strategic vision nor is it animated by a shared agenda. Its members despite being anti-China continue to forge ties with China. For example,
    • In 2020 China became India’s number one trade partner
    • American investors hold $1 trillion of Chinese equity, and 75% of U.S. companies in China continue to invest there.
  • The Quad has a core structural problem. It revolves around the U.S. which is self-centred in defining and pursuing its interests and hardly serves the security interests of its members.
What are the suggestions?
  • India needs to dilute its focus on the Indo-Pacific and the Quad. It should prioritise spending of resources on issues concerning national security. (The border, the neighbours and the Indian Ocean.)
  • The rebuilding of ties with China will have to be a priority concern. Recent disengagement at LAC (Pangong Tso) is a step in the right direction.
  • India’s foreign policy has often been ad hoc, reactive and short-term, reflecting the absence of broad strategic culture. So, with the rising ambition of India, we need to build a cohesive strategic vision to aid India’s interest in the long term.

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