By Syed Atiq ul Hassan;
Last week, the United States, UK, Japan, India, and Australia were among the headlines of international media. This is because of the AUKUS defence alliance between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. And the mutual alliance of the United States, Japan, India, and Australia is called the QUAD. The leaders of AUKUS and QUAD held several joint and one-on-one meetings in Washington.
The stated outline of QUAD’s summit was to discuss the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific Region, climate change, and supply of COVID-19 vaccines to the Indo-Pacific poor nations.
When QUAD countries were meeting, the world was observing the anxiety of the US due to the rising power of China and the establishment of a growing block of China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and few Muslim States of central Asia bordering with Afghanistan.
The withdrawal of US & NATO forces in Afghanistan is seen as a defeat to the US and her allies in Afghanistan by the Taliban – once the friends of the US.
The formation of an alliance ‘QUAD’ between the United States, Japan, India, and Australia is not new to the world. It was founded in 2007 by the then Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe; the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney; the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard; and the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh. The alliance was also dubbed as ‘Asian NATO’ by European and some Asian countries, as the founding agenda of QUAD was to strengthen the Indo-Pacific defence power against the rising power of China.
In 2020, Malabar Naval Exercises were also held in the Indian and Indo-Pacific Ocean. The formation of QUAD delivered a message to the world that these four nations (US, Australia, Japan & India) wanted to stem China’s growing naval power in the Indo-Pacific as well as globally. China has opposed the QUAD from its establishment. China called the QUAD an attempt to pave the way for war in the South China Sea against China. It is to be noted that China has an age-old border dispute with India. China also has a long-standing dispute with Japan over islands in the South Asian Sea. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand why India and Japan created a defence alliance with Australia, the US, and the UK. On the other hand, China has always had good trade and investment relations with Australia. China is the largest export market for Australian traders. Australia makes billions of dollars every year from tourism, education, and property investments by China. Yet, the Australian government does not want to lose the shared and historical values and ties with the US and UK at any cost, even if it means sacrificing relations with China.
There were recent face-to-face meetings of the heads of QUAD’s countries held on the 24th of September 2021, at the White House, Washington. The US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, met first time with each other in this meeting.
Looking back to the cause of the creation of QUAD, the anticipation was that QUAD’s leaders would talk about their strategy for Indo-Pacific and South-China Sea security from the possible threat of China. However, surprisingly, when coming out from the close door summit, no leader spoke or referred anything about China. Was this unease due to a strategy of the QUAD’s members or the trepidation of the two countries (India & Japan) concerning China? In the media briefing, the QUAD leaders said, QUAD nations would work together closely and practically in maintaining the security and stability, cybersecurity in the Indo-Pacific region, and work closely preventing the spread of the Coronavirus through the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to the poor nations of the Indo-Pacific region. When asked by a journalist what reaction China may demonstrate to Australia on QUAD and AUKUS, Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said without calling China that QUAD countries do not want any power to destabilize and create any threat of war in the Indo-Pacific and the South China Sea.
Replying to a question, Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said scrap the 90 billion deal with France for developing submarines for Australia in South Australia has hurt France, but things will be normalised soon between Australia and France as both countries have a good long term friendly relationship based on bilateral benefits.
It is to be noted that Australia terminated 2 years old 90 billion dollars contract with France and signed a new deal with the US, which is building nuclear-powered submarines. This development is a part of one of the AUKUS projects.
Chinese leadership does not talk much but monitors whatever happening in the world’s politics and then quietly counter if anything against China.
The Vice President for the Centre for China and Globalisation and formerly a translator for Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, Victor Gao, was interviewed by a famous anchor & journalist in an Australian TV show. When Mr. Gao was asked how he saw the Australian deal of developing nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS agreement, his reply was very harsh and loud, ‘Armed with nuclear submarines, Australia itself will be a target for possible nuclear attacks…’ When Mr. Gao was asked again, who target Australia for nuclear attack, his reply was, ‘You do not need to know?, go and ask US and UK’.
An opinion article of the former Labor Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating, has been published by mainstream Australian print media, ‘Morrison is making an enemy of China’. In this article, Mr. Keating writes, ‘And all in the claim of a so-called “changed security environment”. That change is China’s more aggressive international posture – the posture of now, the world’s largest emerging economy. This change in China’s domestic and foreign posture is labelled by Morrison and his government not as the shifting posture of a re-emerging great power, but as “the China threat”. As though China, through its more abrupt and ruder foreign policy, has also presented a military threat in its dealings with Australia. A threat that, in fact, has never been made and that has never materialised. The word “threat” explicitly connotes military aggression or invasion, a threat China has never made against Australia or even implied making.’
China understandably is on alert watching the recent development in Washington DC. China has developed very strong relations, in recent times, with the other countries of the Indo-Pacific region – Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea (PNG). China has huge investment projects in Indonesia and PNG. China has strong trade relations with New Zealand, PNG, and Fiji.
The Prime Minister of Japan, Yoshihide Suga, and the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, did not spend much time with the media in Washington and deliberately did not respond clearly to many questions raised. Japan and India both are Asian countries of the Indo-Pacific region in QUAD.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi looked very nervous during his stay in Washington. He read out a written speech in Hindi in the QUAD meeting. He was looking flat and nervous engaging with international media. The reason was that hundreds of Indian Sikhs demonstrated against Modi in front of the White House carrying banners and placards against Mr. Modi. Leaders of the Sikh community in the United States, in their speeches, slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling him a terrorist who has been charged in the United States on terrorism charges and the murder of thousands of Sikhs in India. It should be noted that since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Hindu extremist group RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) have been in power in India, 200 million Muslims in India have been victims of prejudice, torture, and genocide. In the last ten years, thousands of Muslims have been brutally killed by terrorism, lynching, and arson. Mosques and Churches have been demolished. Similarly, hundreds of Sikhs have been killed and thousands have been jailed on treason charges wiping out the Sikh liberation movement. Indian Christians are also brutally persecuted by Hindu extremists in various cities of different states of India. The Modi government is behind the killing of Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians by RSS activists. The agenda of the ruling BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to eliminate non-Hindus from India and convert India as a Hindu India from secular India.
Coming back to Australia; Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not mention China as a threat instead said that the AUKUS and QUAD will make sure no power can threaten the Indo-Pacific region.
In the official statement released from the Australian PM Office, Scott Morrison mentioned, ‘We also recognize that our shared futures will be written in the Indo-Pacific, and we will redouble our efforts to ensure that the Quad is a force for regional peace, stability, security, and prosperity. Towards that end, we will continue to champion adherence to international law, particularly as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to meet challenges to the maritime rules-based order, including in the East and South China Seas. We affirm our support to small island states, especially those in the Pacific, to enhance their economic and environmental resilience. We will continue our assistance with Pacific Island countries on responses to the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 and on quality, sustainable infrastructure, as well as a partner to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change, which poses especially serious challenges for the Pacific.’