OPINION
OPINION

Time To Upgrade Quad Alliance To The Next Level

th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which met in 2017, was a coming out party of President Xi Jinping. China was ready to abandon Deng Xiopeng’s advice to keep its head down and work at developing the nation into a moderately prosperous nation ready to take its rightful place in the world stage. The need to spread Socialism with Chinese characteristics for other countries to follow was a message which was echoed by Xi in the Congress. So if Shinzo Abe was concerned about China’s rise in 2007, it has intensified manifold now. So a fresh attempt is now being made to revive the quadrilateral now being referred simply as the quad.  Shinzo Abe is well entrenched as the PM. He has taken up the unfinished project. Despite thriving trade ties with China, the two countries have been traditional enemies. India, Japan and the US are keen. The Conservative Party in Australia is too, but a Labour government would not be as enthusiastic. A first meeting of the quad officials was held in Manila in 2017 ahead of the ASEAN summit in the Philippines. So far it is confined to the official level with no formal meeting of the political leaders. But much ground has been covered in Track 2, the informal process. The Sasakawa Peace Foundation, invited the Vivekananda Foundation of India (which works closely with the government), National Security College of Australia of Australian National University and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation US, for a conferences in February 2017 and 2018, {countries with stakes in the Indian Ocean Region, with shared democratic values} to put their heads together and put together a plan for a free and open security structure for in the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean. Experts from four countries have brought out their recommendations which were released in Delhi last week. Has the time come for the quad to take off? Taking quad to the next level would be to upgrade it to the political sphere, where foreign ministers of the four countries and a Summit down the line. India will not be in a hurry to raise the level of representation just yet. This is especially so post Wuhan, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping tried to repair ties after the Doklam standoff. Delhi will wait and watch. India needs peace in the neighbourhood and focus on lifting millions out of poverty. So while supporting the quad, Delhi is likely to confine it to the official level so as not to spoil ties in China. Australian politics is in a flux. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has just been replaced by Scott Morisson. The ruling party has a majority of one in parliament. Australia’s trade with China is huge, and opinion is divided whether Australia can afford to be at logger heads with China. Much depends on which political party is in power. Japan is enthusiastic about the quad and would prefer it to raise it to the summit level. US President Donald Trump now engaged in a trade war with China and China bashing, will be in a mood to support upgrading the quad. The quad is certainly going to be an important player in future. The effort will however be to get more countries on boars for a loose alliance to protect the freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

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