Strategists of various creed are busy evaluating the outcome of Quad Summit that took place in Tokyo on May 24.
Its global proponents are engaged in overtime job to depict the initiative as a milestone in the developmental trajectory of the 'democratic world'. They are dropping words and phrases such as collective growth, inclusive development, responsible partnership, values of free world etc to supplement the importance of Tokyo meeting of leaders from the US, Australia, Japan and India.
US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were competing each other in eulogising the spirit behind the Tokyo discussions. Forgetting their positions during the US Presidential election, both the leaders used superlatives to narrate their mutual relations.
In fact, it was a step forward for the US policy-makers and defence strategy managers in advancing their agenda evolved for the most important geographical region in the world.
In their political parlance, leaders of the Quad spirit have re-christened Asia-Pacific region as Indo-Pacific due to obvious reasons. In the backdrop of the Tokyo summit, they have given shape to a new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework comprising of 13 countries.
The importance of this region cannot be ignored by anyone. Geographically, Indo-Pacific represents 25 per cent of the land mass with 65 per cent of the world’s oceans located here.
The region has more than half of the world population with 68 per cent of the youth of the world living there. With 60 per cent of the global GDP, it accounts for two-third of the global economic growth.
In the modern world, such an important region has its own significance. It is only natural that the countries of the region seek their revenues from mutual cooperation.
All their joint endeavours would be welcome if they are focused to meet the challenges that confront the humanity. Issues like climate change and global warming threaten the whole world.
Despite the commitments in Paris agreement, climate change is growing ever more severe. The threat caused by Covid-19 is still looming over the world. Unemployment and poverty haunt large sections of population in the region as well as in the whole world. Available resources need to be channelised to address those present issues.
The fundamental question before Quad and the Indo-Pacific economic framework is their preparedness to understand and prioritise their tasks. Available documents say that deliberations in Quad had only passing references to the most threatening challenges of our times. The Quad leaders were emphasising upon their political and economic ends.
There is every likelihood that the platform of Quad may be utilised as yet another instrument for the geopolitical designs of the US. Partners like India seem to become co-players in this global game.
Whenever any conflict arises in any part of the globe, the US tries to get involved in it with its imperialist political designs. For them, every conflict is an opportunity to expand the arms race. Hence doors of dialogue are undermined. Institutions like UNO are drastically weakened.
In the Tokyo summit also, on regional conflicts, the same approach of the US was visible. Partners like India took varying positions. They were united on China, but not on Russia. For the US, the Pentagon and the military industrial complex are vital for any foreign policy initiative. In Europe, they are on the way to expand NATO.
In Asia, the erstwhile SEATO (South-East Asian Treaty Organisation) is almost dormant. Will the US use the Quad alliance to fill that vacuum? The defence deals and the joint military exercises in the Pacific points to this aspect of the Quad alliance.
In a document from the National Security Council of the executive office of the President, it is said “as we enter a decisive decade that holds considerable promise and historic obstacles for the Indo-Pacific, the American role in the region must be more effective and enduring than ever.” The question before India is straight, simple and vital. Are we, as ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, supposed to be an obedient partner in the US game plan or world hegemony? Will it be beneficial for India in its drive to become a world leader in the 21st century?
In the Indo-Pacific action plan drafted by the White House, ‘deterrence’ is the key word. It means strengthening of the military might or of the declining US economy. That may be a necessity. But for a country like India, it cannot be a priority.
In Quad as well as in the Indo-Pacific economic framework, questions of war and peace are going to emerge. During these days of climate change and pandemic, poverty and unemployment, India should not be a votary for war and conflicts, but should be a supporter of peace and progress.
(The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP. Views are personal)
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