BY AARTI TIKOO SINGH
New Delhi/Washington, Aug 7 (IANS) As New Delhi and Beijing have made no headway in the stand-off along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, the Quadrilateral (Quad) coalition among the US, Australia, Japan and India is rapidly taking up shape as a response to Chinese expansionism.
Envisaging a bigger role for India in the Indo-Pacific region where Beijing has been flexing its muscle over the South China Sea, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Thursday.
In a statement issued by the State Department, the principal deputy spokesperson Cale Brown said that Pompeo and Jaishankar discussed ongoing bilateral and multilateral cooperation on issues of international concern.
“Both leaders agreed to continue close cooperation on a full range of regional and international issues and look forward to Quadrilateral consultations and the US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue later this year.”
Official sources said that though the recent conversations between the US and India have been about a range of issues but the thrust is now on the Quad.
Sources said India is expected to reorient its supply chains and enter into economic partnerships with the members of the Quad. India’s banning of over 100 Chinese internet based applications including the widely popular TikTok app is seen as a step forward in that direction.
President Donald Trump’s follow up ban on TikTok and WeChat announced on Thursday, sources said, is a huge indicator of the two countries moving rapidly in formalizing the Quad.
Major US tech companies are also arriving in India to bolster that effort.
Also known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the Quad had been first initiated among the four members in 2007 as a response to the increased Chinese military power aiming to control critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific region.
However, a year later, the coalition faced hiccups due to the change of governments and thinking in the four countries, tilting them in favor of a more sympathetic view of China.
In 2017 during the ASEAN Summits, all four members of the coalition, with new governments in place, revived the forum amidst tensions in the South China Sea caused by Chinese aggression.
Since then, the coalition has met several times with an aim to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific which serves as an economic lifeline to all the ASEAN countries.
The Trump administration’s trade war with China, which began with renewed negotiations of terms of their bilateral trade, catapulted into a cold war-like scenario when China initially attempted to cover up the coronavirus pandemic which originated in Hubei province’s Wuhan city and allowed the contagious disease to spread to the rest of the world.
More than China, the rest of the world has been badly hit economically and health wise by the pandemic and the subsequent global lockdown.
In the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, China began tightening its grip in the South China Sea by sinking a Vietnamese fishing vessel and later establishing administrative districts on islands controlled by Japan.
Since Trump’s visit to India in February, the Quad under his leadership, has been proactive with regular consultations at the foreign secretary level and even exploring the possibilities of a Quad Plus with allies like South Korea, New Zealand, Vietnam, Brazil and Israel.
He has suggested expansion of G7 to G10.
The US, Japan and India, have also held talks to include Australia in their coordinated naval exercise at Malabar later this year.
BY AARTI TIKOO SINGH