A PACT OF THE QUAD

Last week, Defense and External Affairs Ministers of India and Secretaries of Foreign and Defense of the United States signed a pact of Defense Cooperation in New Delhi. It was a natural culmination of things based on history. Both India and the US are democracies – one the richest and the other the most populous. Indian diplomats have been trying to bring the US to the table for a multilevel Defense cooperation for some time. Finally it happened. A few weeks ago, the Australian prime minister also had suggested that there should be a mutual defense pact between Australia, Japan, USA and India. An alliance among them is quite consequential. The United States has been worried about China for some time. In spite of strong economic ties between the two, China's attitude toward its smaller neighbors and its encroachment of international water has not gone well over the US. While being careful not to provoke too much both have challenged each other's authority. Taiwan has remained a bone of contention between China and the US. In the Pacific they have tagged each other's military vessels. China wants the entire Pacific under its control. America stands in its way. Because both countries are economically dependent on each other, military flare ups have been extinguished right away.

After the fall of the Soviet Union the US remains the lone superpower. Because of its economic and scientific prowess China wants to be recognized as a super power also. It is working very hard toward that end. China has tried to subdue its immediate neighbors. It has lent money and introduced its soft power through business activities and development works in various countries of Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. Through the ”One belt One road” and Asian Development Bank it is trying to establish alternative institutions to entities dominated by the West whose leader is America. No rising power ever gets ahead without subduing the existing power. So a conflict is inevitable. To that end, the United States finds India to be a logical ally, a bulwark against China.

India too is trying to march ahead while taking care of a population of 1.3 billion. Like China it is a big country and willing to prove its bigness. Among many other things its space program, medical development and nuclear bomb tells the story. Therefore, China and India are natural competitors. They live in the same neighborhood and interact with the same countries. Right now, thousands of soldiers from both sides are facing each other on their borders. In the past few months, several skirmishes have taken place between them. Even if the diplomats are trying to stop a conflict, the situation inadvertently could get out of hand. It is worrisome. A pact with the US gives certain assurances. For the Modi Government, American friendship is a necessity.

India and China are ruled by two different systems. India has no fear of the Chinese system because its democracy is resilient and inclusive. That is why in 1957 India had its first Communist Government in Kerala. Later, Bengal's Communist Government lasted for 35 years. There are Communist legislators everywhere. But for China India is a threat because India's democratic system allows its citizens to criticize their government and those who run it. To the Chinese, these things are anathema. They fear the minds of the people could be contaminated by these unnecessary things. Especially at a time when the youth are demonstrating for the openness of the system, it is not a good idea to expose them to more of the similar ideas. A defeat of India would prove that Chinese system makes its people stronger than the Indians.

A pact with another country is like adding a zero to a number the value of which is determined by the strength of the number itself. Right now India's GDP has taken a nose dive and its unemployment rate is touching the sky. At least 50% of its people are employed in farming while producing only one sixth of its GDP. Social strife, economic disparity, unemployment, high level of discontent among people are some of the permanent draw backs India has to deal with to increase its inner strength. Only then can it use the strength of others. No one is going to fight India's battle. It must acquire strength. So, it is up to the managers of the Indian democracy to devise ways to do it.


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