Indian Ocean Power Competition

How the Quad can become more than an anti-China grouping

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indo-Pacific Economic framework

Mains level : Paper 2- Opportunity for Quad plus

Context

On May 23, before the Quad leaders’ summit in Tokyo, the United States launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

Significance IPEF

  • The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) will consist of a diverse group of 12 countries initially — Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
  • The IPEF — which covers fair trade, supply chain resilience, infrastructure, clean energy, and decarbonisation, among others — is likely to complement the other Indo-Pacific projects like the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI)  that also seeks to build resilient and secure trade linkages by reducing dependence on China.
  • Decoupling from Chinese over-dependence: The US-led economic engagement is a salient attempt to allow countries to decouple from Chinese over-dependence in order to ultimately strengthen the existing free and open rules-based global order.
  • Extension of plus grouping: The launch of IPEF signifies the essence of the Quad and its extension as a “plus” grouping.
  •  It brings together seven critical countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), all Quad states, and dialogue partners, including South Korea, solidifying a case for the “plus” characterisation of the Quad process.
  • Thus, it is an encouraging sign that the Quad countries are investing their strategic orientation in this regard.
  • Importantly, both the IPEF launch, and the Tokyo summit dispel any remaining misgivings about the Quad disintegrating and certify that it is a cohesive unit where it matters.
  •  It would potentially represent an amalgamation of the eastern and western “like-minded” countries.
  • The expanded grouping and the related Quad initiatives will build a comprehensive and integrated approach to combating shared challenges arising out of Chinese aggression.
  • A hallmark of Biden’s latest Asia visit has been South Korea’s embrace of the Indo-Pacific framework.
  • This is a long-awaited turn that could potentially lead to South Korea participating in a more meaningful manner in the Quad in the near future.

Importance of Taiwan

  • Taiwan is a major economy in the Indo-Pacific region (as also the US’s eighth-largest trading partner in 2021 and a critical partner in diversifying the US supply chains), which is already engaged in the US-Taiwan Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue that includes many of the issues proposed in the IPEF.
  • The inclusion of Taiwan, which already has a critical role in the global semi-conductor supply chain network, in the SCRI and the IPEF as well as, by extension, in the Quad format, in some manner would be a welcome addition.
  • Geopolitical statement against coercive tactics: Importantly, Taiwan’s inclusion would also be a geopolitical statement against coercion tactics by international actors.

Inclusivity characteristics based on a  commitment to the existing international order

  • In its current abstract framework, the plus framework includes a wide array of states (which also comprise the IPEF) — developing and developed economies as well as middle and major powers that are committed to maintaining an inclusive, rules-based and liberal institutional order.
  • The inclusivity angle is suspect as the grouping is essentially what China calls a US-led “anti-China” tool.
  • Therefore, what interested states must envision is a broad, all-embracing, and comprehensive framework that can stand as a pillar for regional security and stability, multilateralism, and defence of global institutionalism and the status quo.

Conclusion

States are showing their willingness, and now it is incumbent on the Quad states to allow for the creation of a “corridor of communication” that ultimately leads to a “continental connect” to strengthen a rules-based order.

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