The third meeting of Quad countries on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Singapore again saw the four participants issue separate statements. While the US, Japan and Australia emphasised a rules based order in their statements, India chose to mention it cursorily in its summary. Given that the whole idea of the Quad is to preserve a free, open and stable Indo-Pacific region, a rules based order ought to be a core plank of the informal grouping. True, the Quad is still an evolving platform. But if it is to provide strategic hedge against an assertive China – which has basically imposed itself on the South China Sea through its island-building activities – the Quad needs to get its fundamentals right. Here, New Delhi is guilty of unnecessary timidity.
The Quad discussions this time focussed on connectivity, counter-terrorism and cyber security. The four countries also emphasised Asean centrality in the Indo-Pacific. But all this is just talk even as China already has significant assets on the ground, while its economic linkages with Southeast Asian nations provide it strategic depth. In fact, Asean itself is a divided house with countries such as Laos and Cambodia firmly in the China camp. And while countries like Vietnam vociferously object to Chinese activities in the South China Sea, they are inclined to leave it at that.
In such a scenario, the only way to get China to re-evaluate its position is by making it believe that other stakeholders have serious options. And this is where the Quad needs to undertake regular joint naval exercises. India, Japan and the US already do this under the Malabar naval exercise. But Australia still hasn’t been invited. Such hesitations need to be overcome for larger strategic interest even as attempts should be made to bring in Indonesia as well. Otherwise, the Quad will dissipate like sea foam.
|Emphasise: give special importance or prominence to something in speaking or writing.
Example: He jabbed a finger into the tabletop to emphasize his point
|Preserve: a sphere of activity regarded as being reserved for a particular person or group.
Example: The civil service became the preserve of the educated middle class
Synonyms: domain, area, field, sphere, orbit, realm, province, territory
|Hedge: a fence or boundary formed by closely growing bushes or shrubs.
Example: She was standing barefoot in a corner of the lawn, trimming the hedge
Synonyms: hedgerow, bushes, windbreak
|Assertive: having or showing a confident and forceful personality.
Example: Patients should be more assertive with their doctors
Synonyms: confident, self-confident, bold, decisive, assured, self-assured
|Vociferous: vehement or clamorous.
Example: He was a vociferous opponent of the takeover
|Scenario: a written outline of a movie, novel, or stage work giving details of the plot and individual scenes.
Example: Imagine the scenarios for four short stories
Synonyms: plot, outline, synopsis, storyline, framework, screenplay, script
|Hesitation: the action of pausing or hesitating before saying or doing something.
Example: She answered without hesitation
Synonyms: hesitancy, uncertainty, unsureness, doubt, doubtfulness, dubiousness
|Dissipate: squander or fritter away money, energy, or resources.
Example: He had dissipated his entire fortune
Synonyms: squander, fritter (away), misspend, waste, be prodigal with, spend recklessly