Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Pushback against China more likely as Quad gains momentum

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quad

Mains level : Paper 2- Pushback against China

The article discusses the future pushback against China in South Asia and Indo-Pacific as Quad gains more momentum. 

Context

Recently, the Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh, Li Jiming, warned Dhaka that there will be “substantial damage” in bilateral ties between China and Bangladesh if the latter joins the Quad.

Bangladesh’s reaction

  • Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen promptly and publicly challenged the Chinese envoy’s statement, underlining categorically that Dhaka pursues an independent foreign policy. 
  • That China’s remarks would reverberate far beyond South Asia was expected and perhaps intended.
  • The spokesperson of U.S. State Department remarked, “What we would say is that we respect Bangladesh’s sovereignty and we respect Bangladesh’s right to make foreign policy decisions for itself.”

Implications for South Asia and Info-Pacific

  • With its message to Bangladesh, Beijing was laying down a marker that nations should desist from engaging with the Quad.
  • This episode captures the emerging fault lines in South Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific.
  • For all its attempts to play down the relevance of the Quad, Beijing realises that the grouping, with all its weaknesses, is emerging as a reality and there is little it can do to prevent that.
  • And so, it is agitated about Quad’s future role and its potential success in offering the regional states an alternative to its own strong-arm tactics.

About Quad’s agenda

  • The Quad member states are figuring out a cohesive agenda amongst themselves and there are no plans for an expansion.
  • There is a desire to work with like-minded nations but that can only happen if the four members of the Quad can build a credible platform first.
  • Quad has not asked any country to join and no one has shown an interest.
  • But China wants to ensure that after failing in its initial attempt to prevent the Quad from gaining any traction.
  • Its message is well understood by other states who may harbour any desire of working closely with the Quad members.

Way forward

  • Beijing has failed to prevent nations from the West to the East from coming out with their Indo-Pacific strategies.
  • It has failed to prevent the operationalisation of the Quad, and now it might be worried about other nations in the region thinking of engaging with the Quad more proactively.
  • Even Bangladesh is planning to come out with its own Indo-Pacific strategy and Beijing has now warned Dhaka that a close cooperation with the Quad should not be part of the policy mix.
  •  As the Quad gains more momentum and the churn in the waters of the Indo-Pacific leads to new countervailing coalitions against China, Beijing’s belligerence can only be expected to grow.

Conclusion

Beijing is more likely to demand clear-cut foreign policy choices from its regional interlocutors, as its warning to Bangladesh underscores. But as Dhaka’s robust response makes it clear, states are more likely to push back than become subservient to Chinese largesse.

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