The Quad, comprising the United States, Japan, Australia, and India, is gradually evolving into a security alliance, as originally intended by its name, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. Recently, the military chiefs of the four Quad members convened in Sunnylands, California, from May 15 to 17, with the Indian Chief of Defence Staff, Anil Chauhan, and the Commander of the Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John C Aquilino, representing their respective countries. This meeting of military chiefs took place just before the Quad Summit, scheduled to be held during the G-7 Summit in Hiroshima. Unfortunately, US President Biden had to cancel his visit to Australia, where the Summit was initially planned for May 24. Prime Minister Modi is set to attend this meeting, which will mark the third in-person gathering of the Quad leaders. While the United States has always viewed the Quad as a security alliance aimed at countering China, India initially adopted a more nuanced position, emphasizing concepts like the “free and open Indo-Pacific,” maritime security, and cooperation for humanitarian and disaster relief operations. However, India’s participation in the Quad’s military chiefs meeting and the inclusion of Australia in the Malabar naval exercises in August signifies a growing alignment with the United States Indo-Pacific strategy to counter and isolate China.
An anonymous Indian security official justified India’s cooperation with the Quad, citing China’s aggressive behaviour on the border and its unwillingness to resolve the border issue bilaterally. This official stated that India needs to seek help from multilateral platforms like the Quad to curb the People’s Liberation Army’s aggression on the land and in the Indo-Pacific. The United States has been transparent about its desire to incorporate India into its Indo-Pacific strategy and the role it expects India to play. India has not only joined the Indo-Pacific Quad but has also joined the Quad set up in West Asia, known as I2U2, comprising India, Israel, and the USA. Furthermore, India participated in a meeting in Saudi Arabia on May 7, where the Saudi Prime Minister met with national security advisors from the United States, the UAE, and India. The purpose of this meeting was reportedly to strengthen cooperation and develop infrastructure connecting to India, reflecting US concerns about China’s increasing influence and its diplomatic efforts to mend Saudi-Iran relations.
India’s primary issue with China revolves around the border dispute and the deterioration of peace and tranquillity on the Line of Actual Control due to recent Chinese actions. This matter should be resolved through dialogue and mutual agreement, necessitating patience and determination. India has nothing to gain from weakening trade and economic ties with China, considering China’s significant role in global economic and trade relations. Despite the strained relations following the Galwan clashes, bilateral trade between India and China grew to $135.98 billion in 2022. Even the United States has shifted its stance from talking about “decoupling” from China’s economy to focusing on “derisking” economic ties. The current inclination in some sections of the Indian establishment to sever economic links with China would be self-harmful. As a major developing country with immense economic potential, India is in a position to leverage the evolving multipolarity to establish beneficial relationships with other major countries and regions for its advancement. Tying itself exclusively to the American agenda is not the most conducive path forward.