The world politics is transforming unpredictably. Chinese aggression, along with pandemic, has charted a new turf of geo-politics and climate change to criss-cross each other. The post-World War II politics was driven by geo-political adventurism with gaining larger spheres of the world. The driving greed was to capture fossil fuels of the Middle East and some parts of Africa. The tools were nuclear weapons. Almost five decades the world lived under the shadow of nuclear threats. The balance of power theory was also constructed on the nuclear deterrence. Now, the threat perception of the world shifted from nuclear to climate change. This is more alarming and impending. It does not need wider conflicts between the two powers, merely inaction and lack of proactive climatic initiatives will doom the world. In such a scenario, the QUAD could be very effective in changing world politics from geo-political rumblings to green politics. It will have a win-win situation for everyone except China. China’s aggressive posturing in the South China Sea, intimidating behaviours in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Chinese PLA is trying to create war-like conditions in Eastern Ladakh.
China has gained the status of a super power through its economic development and its expansion to each and every corner of the world. The economic gust developed the military might. The military might generate biting strategic teeth. China became a threat to world peace. The befitting response to Chinese aggression is to cut its economic fang. The QUAD could anchor more effectively and successfully. It is not merely a group of four countries that is US, Australia, Japan and India but it also combines the many countries which are situated on the sea lane of Indo-Pacific and they are strongly bound by US alliance system for many decades. Moreover, most of these countries are badly affected by Chinese aggression. Japan is worried over its activities in East China Sea; Australia finds the Chinese claims against the international norms and is facing punitive trade measures after Australia called for an independent probe into the origins of Covid-19; and the US see that the littoral countries in the SCS are being bullied by China and it is trying to destroy the strategic balance. All four are equally concerned with Chinese aggression.
The larger question is to who will bell the cat? The QUAD meeting of the foreign ministers held in Tokyo. The Foreign Ministers of India, Japan, US and Australia met in Tokyo to discuss the emerging situation from pandemic and share their concerns to maintain peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region. This reflects a developing consensus on the need for formalisation of the group to share common concerns arising from the Chinese aggressive behaviour. US Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo announced that both India and the US would work together for ensuring a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific for all.
How to slow down the expanding Chinese feet in the Indo-Pacific is more important? That needs to be sketched by the QUAD meeting. One way is to focus on the green energy project and adopt the Paris mandate. Chinese are luring the poorer countries through their fossil-fuel projects. China is also facilitating the expansion of fossil fuel use in countries under the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), which may be counterproductive to addressing climate change. In 25 of the 65 countries under the BRI initiative, China is reportedly involved in 240 coal-fired power projects of about 250 GW capacities. Though some of these countries are exposed to climate-related disasters, the concern that the costs of mitigating climate change by reducing emissions could slow down their economic catch-up overrides their climate concerns. This highlights the critical question of economic inequality between countries and the consequent need for financial assistance from richer to poorer countries to address climate change.
Article 4 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change echoed Article 9 of the Paris Agreement by calling for financial assistance to poor countries to address climate change. Available evidence shows that climate finance grants to poor countries are far lower than the $100 billion promised by developed countries. This could be an opportunity for the US and other developed countries to offer grants for clean energy to BRI countries under the climate finance mechanism. The US has a lot of resources to focus on the Green Energy in the Indo-Pacific. This switchover will create a better alternative to many members of OBR which found them trapped in Chinese net. India could be the best suited to carry forward the green belt in the Indo-Pacific. It has already announced ‘One Sun, One World and One Grid’. India does not have infrastructure and adequate technology to move forward single handedly. Japan and many European countries which are alliance partners of America can come forward and support the Green Projects in Asia. It will commemorate India’s self-reliant initiative which was taken during the Chinese aggression.
Japan, too, has portrayed itself as India’s natural partner in North-East India by investing in a host of project. A new foreign policy outlook is an integral part of these strategies if India wishes to enhance its stature as an emerging Indo-Pacific power. In his inaugural address at India Global Week 2020 on July 9, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spelt out in detail his vision of “Atmanirbhar Bharat,” or “Self-Reliant India”. He explained that the concept “merges domestic production and consumption with global supply chains” without “being self-contained or being closed to the world”.
A new foreign policy outlook is an integral part of these strategies if India wishes to enhance its stature as an emerging Indo-Pacific power
The cumulative impact of Indo-Pacific powers can change the rule of the game against the wishes of China. China is far ahead than any country in pursuing green technology and infrastructures. But its intentions are not genuine. The expansionist mood of China is well orchestrated time and again. Indian heritage has its own value and acceptance. India’s self-reliant economic exercise will integrate its neighbours which are culturally integrated for centuries. Sunil Ambekar, Rashtriye Sah-Parchar Parmukh of RSS explained in his book, ‘RSS Roadmap 21st Century’, “All neighbouring countries in our region Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka also bear the Indian cultural heritage. Indian maritime history touched many shores. The maritime silk route was created during the rule of the Chola dynasty from the ninth to thirteenth century.” Therefore, Indian Silk-Route has a cultural softness whereas China stiffens the neck of poorer countries and threatens their integrity.
The shift from geo-politics to green politics should be planned out at the earliest. China is watching very closely every move of QUAD in the Indo-Pacific. The US Presidential election could be a decisive factor between China-US rift and climate synergies. The defeat of Trump and victory for Biden may disrupt the momentum of Indo-Pacific synergies. India has better opportunities to cash on. The Green Project initiatives will provide huge opportunities to build up its self-reliant structures and minimise the damage from discarding China’s economic support. It will have tangible impacts on India’s neighbourhood.
(The author is Associate Professor in MMH College)