Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Four lessons for the Quad from Asia’s history and geopolitics


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: The Quad

Mains level: Paper 2- Fourth factors the Quad must consider about Asia

The article highlights the 4 issues related to the history and geopolitics of Asian that the Quad members should pay attention to while formulating the future course of action. 

The 4 factors

If the Quad is to prosper as a geopolitical construct, it would do well to heed four lessons drawn from the long arc of Asia’s history and geopolitics.

1) Lack of existence of Indo-Pacific system

  • There has never been Indo-Pacific system ever since the rise of the port-based kingdoms of Indochina in the first half of the second millennium.
  •  There were two Asian systems — an Indian Ocean system and an East Asian system — with intricate sub-regional balances.
  • The effort by a U.S. to artificially manufacture to combine the Indo and the Pacific into a unitary system is unlikely to succeed.

2) Lack of peaceful existence dominated by any power

  • The Indo-Pacific region possesses no prior experience of long period of peace, prosperity and stability engineered from its maritime fringes.
  • Rather, dynamic long cycles of Chinese influence radiating outwards have alternated with sharp periods of turmoil.
  • The of ASEAN-centred multilateralism is more in tune with regional tradition and historical circumstance.
  • For their part, the Indo-Pacific’s ‘flanking powers’, India and Japan, have never balanced Chinese power throughout their illustrious histories.

3) India must use its leverage judiciously

  •  The sea lines of communication constitute the important links connecting Indian Ocean to the Western Pacific.
  • It is also a valuable arena of leverage vis-à-vis Chinese shipping and resource flows.
  • This leverage must be wielded judiciously on India’s terms, not on the Quad’s terms.
  • The Quad, after all, has little to offer materially with regard to New Delhi’s continental two-front dilemma.
  • However, ceding this chokepoint leverage will invite overwhelming Chinese pressure against the full range of India’s South Asian interests — to which the other Quad members possess neither will nor desire to answer.

4) Check on China’s India Ocean Ambitions

  •  The Quad has a valuable role to play as a check on China’s Indian Ocean ambitions.
  • India must develop ingrained habits of interoperable cooperation with its Quad partners.
  • This interoperable cooperation could pre-emptively dissuade China from mounting a naval challenge in its backyard.


The Quad must consider these factors while formulating the future course of action.

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