Indo Pacific pushback to China
New Delhi, May 31: Within days of Japan hosting Quad Leaders’ Summit, China seems smelling sour air in the Indo Pacific region. The Quad has finally become a challenger to decades of Beijing’s hegemony in the Indo Pacific region.
For months, China had sought to shut doors on the world with its ‘Zero Covid’ policy, with stringent lockdowns in several cities even while the Asian giant reported less than 100 daily active cases. The citizens in large cities, including Shanghai, banged windows to protest against the lockdowns while food crisis acquired alarming proportions. China was least bothered.
Within days of Tokyo hosting Quad Summit, China has begun lifting the lockdowns. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi rushed to Fiji to stitch a trade and security pact with 10 island nations. He was rebuffed by the island nations, for Beijing’s script to hold vulnerable nations in bondage was widely being read world over following the financial collapse of Sri Lanka.
All these months, China had been busy making the windfall gains out of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Beijing has been doing business with Russia intensely, sourcing resources to further gain advantage in the world trade, with its aluminum and other metals’ exports affirming China’s gains from the war.
Russia’s brutal assault on the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine also shook Europe out of its deep slumber. The European leaders, already shaken by the Covid-19 pandemic, began assessing threat potential of totalitarian regimes in the world. Europe’s security guarantor the US had to step in after it became abundantly clearly that its spate of sanctions against Russia were not able to deter Vladimir Putin from going ahead with its outrageous war against Ukraine.
The Tokyo Quad Summit came with definitive plan from the US to check unabated Chinese dominance in the Indo Pacific region. The US President Joe Biden piloted the Indo Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), distinct from a trade block, with intent to address pressing challenges in the disruption of the global supply chain, including semi-conductor chips, infrastructure booster with funds in excess of USD 50 billion, while also committing to check illegal fishing, which is said to be over 95 per cent on account of China, by putting in place satellites.
With India a willing partner, the US outreach in the Quad Summit was well received, with strategic affairs’ commentators noting that this was the most serious effort to check Beijing. Indeed, Quad had suffered from lack of interest previously after the four nations’ grouping was launched in 2007 at the initiative of the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, largely on account of the flip flop by Australia.
However, Australia has lately become aware of the threats posed by China after Beijing signed a security pact with Solomon Islands, a group of 100s of islands in the South Pacific, which had played key strategic role in the Second World War.
Wang Yi sought to replicate its trade pact with Solomon Islands with another 10 Pacific Island nations, but was convincingly rebuffed.
Al Jazeera reported that David Panuelo, President of Federated States of Micronesia described the Chinese proposal as “the single most game-changing proposed agreement in the Pacific in any of our lifetimes that threatens to bring a new Cold War era at best, and a World War at worst”.
Before China had gone into the phase of lockdown, Wang Yi had gone on a whirlwind tour of Pakistan, India and Nepal. Pakistan since then has slipped into the cycle of political instability. Nepal ratified the US-funded USD 500 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) contact. Kathmandu also rolled out red carpet to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In Sri Lanka, which is bearing the brunt of the Chinese debt-trap, saw Beijing nowhere when the island nation became a defaulter on its international loan obligations. Anti-China sentiment is running high in Sri Lanka, while its language institute became a target of terrorist attack in Pakistan. Nepalese traders are angry over the border closure for the trucks.
A well-coordinated action plan with the developed world’s commitment to execute Quad vision unveiled in Tokyo could be the beginning of an eventual pushback to China.