As US Pushes QUAD, China Keen To Counter it with ASEAN in the Indo-Pacific Region

QUAD vs ASEAN – This may sound like an absurd comparison, but this is something that the Chinese Government is attempting to push. The QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue ) consists of US, India, Japan and Australia has been a distress to China. The QUAD, led by the US is primarily aimed at containing and countering the rise of China in the Indo-Pacific region.

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Japanese PM Shinzo Abe had proposed to the formation of the QUAD in 2007 to counter the belligerence of China in disputed Senkaku islands and the South China Sea by forming an alliance in the Asia-Pacific region.

Abe reemphasised the notion during his India visit in December 2015. China’s unrestricted violation of the International Court of Justice ruling of July 2016 on South China Sea islands worried Asia and the world. In 2017, Trump administration proposed the “Indo-Pacific Strategy”. The QUAD idea came handy to check China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.

The first QUAD meeting was held during the East Asia Summit in Manila, Philippines, in November 2017, the second and third in Singapore in June and November 2018. Three meetings within a year accentuate the significance of Chinese belligerence and necessity in ensuring “free and open Indo-Pacific” through “shared commitment.”

China dissuades discussion of the island issues in ASEAN platform, preferring direct talks instead with individual nations. It has impeded all ASEAN initiatives through pressure tactics. Philippines President Duterte reported about Chinese President’s direct threat.

So the anti-China orientation of the QUAD comes as fresh relief, arousing ASEAN hopes of an increased role in the region by weakening Beijing’s assertiveness policy. China persistently undermines ASEAN authority for greater leverage on disputed islands but the QUAD mechanism as the pillar of “Indo-Pacific strategy” promises to strengthen ASEAN in regional affairs.

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When “Indo-Pacific strategy” is taking shape now, Beijing is propelling ASEAN to take on the QUAD in Indo-Pacific region. It is urging Indonesia to root for an ASEAN-centred Indo-Pacific. ASEAN members should see through China’s game and develop a voice rather than play second fiddle to China.

The vicious “debt trap” of Chinese Belt and Road initiative truncated national sovereignty beyond recognition; Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Kenya are key examples. Malaysia managed to protect itself but others were not that smart.

The Indo-Pacific Strategy that is being put forward especially at a time when ASEAN countries are gradually getting disillusioned with BRI is the befitting antidote to the peril.

Now, that Indo-Pacific theory is a reality, China concedes that ASEAN should fit into the free and open Indo-Pacific concept to ensure BRI’s coexistence. South-East Asian countries had so far been forced into making false and forced choices of BRI. Washington invited Japan to join the US-India Malabar military exercise and is now looking at adding Australia.

It also proposed that the four countries conduct freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea. China brands the quadrangular joint military exercise as an emergence of an “Asian NATO” and South-East Asia could become the frontier of the China-US confrontation

China wanted ASEAN members to settle the island disputes through talks to bully all individually. Involving ASEAN was strictly forbidden. Now comes QUAD involving external interference and probable military dimension!

China points to non-inclusion of ASEAN powers in the QUAD and the possibility of it splitting both Indo-Pacific and ASEAN. As the US is taking “democracy” as a standard-which four countries share-for its Indo-Pacific Strategy, China’s regime feels embarrassed and talks of demarcating ideology further on the political system.

China has tried all along to undermine the unity of ASEAN. Ironically, ASEAN remains the last straw Beijing is holding on to now as its propaganda machine ascribes a divisive motive to the Indo-Pacific Strategy that will create a disagreement among ASEAN countries. China wants Asia to be suspicious of QUAD threat to ASEAN unity but who is not aware of Chinese tricks?

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