India seeks balance between multilateral clubs and bilateral relations

It was supposed be the highlight, with leaders from four major Indo-Pacific nations coming together for their first face-to-face Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) meeting in the United States. So he took people by surprise that just a week before the summit, three Anglo-Saxon countries announced the formation of AUKUS (a trilateral from Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States). Now we wonder if the United States is ditching the Quad for this new club.

The Quad is a club in which India has been ardently courted. Yet he remained cautious. It is in large part thanks to India that Quad remains a non-military club of regional democracies with a “shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacificâ€. AUKUS, on the other hand, is a shameless security pact; the announcement of his training came with the news that the UK and US would help Australia develop and deploy nuclear-powered submarines. The message to confront China is unambiguous.

Since 1993, when India first applied to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC), the country has embraced club culture in a big way. It has joined a veritable alphabet soup of new groups including the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), the G-20, the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation ) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and has succeeded in establishing itself even in the Djibouti Code of Conduct. India is now part of more than 70 such groups.

Yet two exclusive club cards he most desires – the UNSC and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) – remain elusive. The NSG was formed in response to India’s nuclear ambitions in 1974. India was granted a host of waivers from the NSG in 2008, which negated the need for actual membership, but India wishes to do so. sit at the high table and not at the door. The UNSC membership line is long and the club has no intention of letting anyone in. The only option available is non-permanent membership. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the issue of Security Council reforms again during his address to the United Nations General Assembly.

The Quad ticks the “exclusive†box, a point on which Russia and China are sore. Despite all his desire to be part of elite clubs, his membership in Quad makes India rather uncomfortable.

This brings us to the question: what’s the point of amassing so many club cards? Many multilateral agreements now have a limited focus. The BRICS, launched as a group of emerging economies, are a good example. Although leaders still pursue summits, its relevance is now limited to the Brics Development Bank, as Brazil has lost interest, South Africa is no longer considered an emerging economy, with Russia being sanctioned and China already. established as an economic superpower, according to Dilip. Sinha, retired IFS officer and author of Legitimacy of power: the permanence of five on the Security Council. Geopolitics has been turbulent over the past decade. Now, with the pandemic and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, it is even more turbulent. Existing alliances are readjusted and new priorities emerge, says Major General Dipankar Banerjee (ret), founder of the Forum for Strategic Initiative. “India, too, is adapting to changes, and it needs to be present in every important group – regional or global – given its desire to be part of global conversations,†he says.

In a dynamic world, if one club loses its importance, another can be reborn in response to emerging needs. The G-20, which was formed in 1999, did not gain prominence until after the 2008 global economic crisis. The Quad was formed in 2007, and then almost collapsed with the reluctance of l Australia to counter China. India, too, was suspicious of China and Australia’s intentions. By 2017, however, China’s expansionary plans and the strength of its economy had shaken the United States and Australia enough to revive the Quad. “Post Galwan in India also understood the need for this partnership, given its limited maritime reach,†Banerjee explains.

While some may consider AUKUS to have stolen the thunder from the Quad, the two are complementary. AUKUS actually solves India’s dilemma of militarizing the Quad. The military presence essential to control China’s growing footprint comes without India actually needing to provide its army.

India, when it realized that there could not be even limited diplomatic engagement with Pakistan, shifted the focus from SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) to BIMSTEC, a group that aligned with both the Neighborhood First and Act East approaches of the government.

The question of the usefulness of the SCO for India also comes up repeatedly, given that India’s two headaches, China and Pakistan, are members. As Sinha says, imagine us having a discussion about counterterrorism strategies in a forum shared with Pakistan. What can be the lessons of such dialogues?

China initiated the formation of the SCO to reach the markets of Central Asia. With the inclusion of new nations – India, Pakistan and now Iran – it has become a group of countries that matter in the region. Although India may have limited scope to verify the ambitions of China’s Belt and Road Initiative through the SCO, the summits provide a platform for India to express its concerns. points of view in front of regional stakeholders.

The SCO’s most important role has been to provide a neutral ground for the two nations to meet, which has helped ease the post-Galwan aggression. Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh met their Chinese counterparts in Moscow on the sidelines of SCO meetings last year. Significantly, the Astana Consensus, by which Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed not to let disputes between the two countries escalate into disputes, was forged at the SCO’s first meeting of the India as a member in 2017. Consensus was put to the test weeks later when the face-to-face between soldiers from the two countries took place in Doklam. It took months, but the situation was peacefully defused.

Another club that the partners were very keen on India joining, but India stuck it out, was the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Internal pressures prevented India from joining, although Sinha believes India had not prepared well for membership. “Just like you can’t join a golf club without at least purchasing a set of clubs, you can’t join a business group if you don’t have import standards and haven’t developed your manufacturing capabilities. He said. He believes that while groupings are useful, India should focus its energies on developing strong bilateral agreements.

India now has 2 + 2 dialogues with the three Quad partners, thus maintaining a defense engagement with each, but outside the framework of the plurilateral. Balancing bilateral trade requires immense diplomatic finesse. One of India’s challenges is to keep intact its long-standing friendship with Russia even as it explores new opportunities with the United States. And how ready India is to give in any relationship is going to be tested sooner or later.

A recent shake came when Republican Congressman Mark Green asked Secretary of State Anthony Blinken if the United States had reached out to India as a possible staging area for forces beyond the United States. horizon. Blinken simply said he would approach the issue in a different framework. India has abstained from comment.

India pursues a fiercely independent foreign policy and has in the past refused numerous awareness campaigns accompanied by horsemen. The emergence of the new world order from the current flow will test each of its relationships.

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