October 10, 2020

WE CAN'T JOIN TPP FAST ENOUGH:

Jaishankar's bland speech at Quad said nothing. But look at the naval ties India is forging (TARA KARTHA, 8 October, 2020, The Point)

Foreign Minister Jaishankar's bland statement at the Quad meeting said precisely nothing. But consider this. New Delhi is quietly forging strong military ties, particularly naval ones, with Quad members on a bilateral basis, while keeping the language of Quad itself vague in the extreme, and thus avoiding an increase in tensions with China. But India is still keeping all its irons in the fire. 

Alongside, there is the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative - referenced in Jaishankar's statement - which was launched at the East Asia Summit 2019, and includes maritime security in its charter. New Delhi invited Vietnam to be a part of it, even as Hanoi considers filing an international arbitration case against Beijing in the South China Sea. Both will be non-permanent members of the UN Security Council next year. Vietnam, together with New Zealand and South Korea, was also part of an online 'Quad plus' meeting earlier. All are countries sitting on important sea lanes. As Pompeo observed, the Quad has an expansion plan, and it seems New Delhi is already on the job. 

At a time when the Chinese are digging in opposite Ladakh, India seems to have realised that the Quad can only be of value in a crisis if - and it's a very big if - it can effectively interdict Chinese shipping across the Malacca Straits, particularly since Beijing depends on the sea for 80 per cent of its oil imports. New Delhi can't be sure of anything at this stage, which is why it's firing up its missiles and buying aircraft, guns and munitions from the weapons market. In war, reliance on 'friends' is foolhardy.

But it's nice to have that ace in the hole, gambling on the fact that China cannot retaliate against everybody at the same time. As to whether that threat is working, there is the fury of the Chinese Foreign Ministry on what it calls a "Mini NATO". Whether this view suits India's China playbook is yet unclear, probably even in the Ministry of External Affairs. That's actually a large part of the problem.

Posted by at October 10, 2020 8:02 AM

  

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