Col Ashwani Sharma (Retd)


Third decade of 21st century will be etched in our memories for a number of reasons. Covid 19 will undoubtedly take the first spot, with chances that world will henceforth be split into two timelines – world before and after Corona. High voltage, acerbic elections and unrest in the US over ‘Black lives matter’, and ‘assault on the Capitol’ come next. Chinese coercion in the region and muscle flexing despite the ignominy of Covid19 has shaken up a number of global equations affecting stability. Turkey’s attempts to seize the initiative from Saudi Arabia in leading the Islamic world, Armenia, Azerbaijan conflict, Iran’s belligerence, Russia’s outsized influence etc have added to determining a new world order.

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue has gained momentum recently. During the past few years of destabilisation in the region, there has been growing convergence in foreign policies among the four states, with a focus on securing a free and open Indo-Pacific, taking joint action against terrorism, and promoting a rules-based system. Ideological and geographic bounding of Quad led to contrasting presumptions about its intent and future: that Quad is an “Asian NATO,” a network aimed at containing the rise of China.

Recent coercive policies of China has crystallised the alignment of interests underpinning the Quad. India found itself on the receiving end of military coercion with a standoff at Doklam in 2017 and Eastern Ladakh in 2020.  India was also blocked from NSG membership by China.  Australia, too, witnessed its relationship with China nose diving dramatically. Australian politicians accepting money from organisations connected to the CCP, as well as the exposure of UFWD activities in China, led to ‘foreign interference law’ in 2018. Japan saw a significant uptick in coercive Chinese behaviour, too. Nationalisation of the Senkaku islands in 2012 led to increased “grey-zone” coercive activities by China’s Coast Guard and maritime militia.  There were a number of air space violations and regular incursions of Chinese Coast Guard and fishing vessels into the contiguous zone of the Senkakus.

Developing the Quad further to maintain a joint message, with real-world outcomes that are clear to ally and adversary alike, will be crucial to maintaining the Quad as a pillar of stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

Biden administration has surprised many with its tough stance on China. New equations emerging in the region coupled with recent Indo-Pak thaw are opening new possibilities. New world and regional order thus is a possibility and it will be interesting to watch how it pans out.