Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Quad Summit


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quad

Mains level : Paper 2- Relevance of the Quad

As India deepens its engagement with the Quad, it must consider several aspects related to such engagement. The article deals with this issue.

Background of India’s engagement with Quad

  • India’s engagement with the Quad goes back to China’s expanding footprint in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region over the last few years.
  • China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative rang alarm bells in India as the projects were viewed as encroachments into India’s strategic space.
  • The U.S.’s focus on the west Pacific due to aggressive Chinese maritime activity gradually pulled India into the ambit of the Indo-Pacific that views the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean as an integrated geopolitical space.
  • Besides the U.S. navy, India expanded its maritime ties with other regional states, the most high-profile of the interactions being the Quad.

Core structural problems with Quad

  • The Quad has a core structural problem as well in that it pivots around the U.S.
  • The Quad riles China as a hostile grouping, but hardly serves the security interests of its members.
  • The U.S. views China’s rise as a threat to the world order it has led since the Second World War.
  • Despite rhetoric relating to the promotion of a ‘rules-based’ world order, the Quad neither shares a strategic vision nor is it animated by a shared agenda.
  • This is obvious not only from its inability to deter China in the west Pacific, but also by its members’ anxiety to maintain close ties with China.

Implications for India

  • By affiliating with the U.S.-led maritime coalition, India ignored the principal areas of its security concerns which is an undemarcated 3,500-km land border with China.
  • From April 2020, Indian and Chinese forces had their latest border face-off in Ladakh, abruptly ending a long period of productive relations.
  • In retrospect, this confrontation appears to be China’s sharp response to the steady shift in India’s regional posture in favour of an alignment with the U.S. and its allies against China.
  • The stand-off at Ladakh has been a bitter experience for India: it has affirmed the limits of India-U.S. security ties, the folly of Indian involvement in the Quad.
  • The stand-off has also underscored need to focus national attention and resources in areas of abiding interest for India — the border, the neighbours and the Indian Ocean.

Lessons for India

  • Ladakh also offers some valuable lessons for India.
  • One, the rebuilding of ties with China will have to be a priority concern.
  • India need to dilute its focus on the Indo-Pacific and the Quad and accept that the borders and the Indian Ocean are where its crucial interests lie.
  • Two, the Ladakh experience has highlighted certain deficiencies at home:
  • It hardly needs reiteration that India’s capacities can only be built by a united people committed to the national cause.
  • Finally, foreign policy cannot be a part-time concern of the national leadership; in terms of priority and attention, it should be on a par with domestic affairs.

Consider the question “Examine the factors that India should consider as it seeks to deepen its engagement in the Quad.”


As the global scenario gets more complex and India’s ambitions increase, a cohesive strategic vision would give substance and drive to India’s pursuit of its interests over the long term.

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