From Minilateral to Multilateral

    25-Mar-2021   
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To emerge as leader, the Quad must demonstrate that they are making significant contributions to solving the more considerable economic, transnational, and environmental challenges that preoccupy all countries in the Indo-Pacific region
 
 
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Cooperation among Quad countries could also pave
the way for Bharat’s emergence as a manufacturing hub
  
 
How much heft should one place on the Quad in progressing a free and open Indo-Pacific? While some view the Quad's return as the bulwark against further corrosion of the rules-based order, a more profound assessment is needed of how truly companionable Quad countries are with respect to the area of their interest, threats and geostrategic needs. This compatibility, or lack of it, has substantial consequences for the future of the Quad.
 
In order to succeed, the Quad needs to evolve from a China-focused club of four to a group of first movers on a range of specific practical challenges.
 
The Quad may not be a full-scale coalition yet, but a new “minilateral” is taking shape. Bharat welcomed Quad's immediate focus on vaccines and sharing of responsibility. Bharat is by now supplying 60 per cent of the global vaccines. The initiative will further enhanceBharat's vaccine manufacturing capacity. This could also pave the way for Bharat to become the manufacturing destination for Quad countries, thus reducing China's dependence.
 
Besides maritime security, Bharat has the capabilities to offer many things to Quad and the world. Still, Bharat may need collaboration (with the US, Japan and Australia) to build the capacity. Bharat can contribute in the following domains:
 
Technology: Besides China, Bharat is the only country with more than one billion population. Thus, Bharat is a significant data producing country. Data is the fuel on which Artificial intelligence and IoT solutions run. Accounting for one-fifth of the $5-trillion national economy, the importance of cyberspace in Bharatis growing. Bharat's secure cyberspace is also crucial for the Quad and the world. In 2020, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency acknowledged around 14 critical vulnerabilities detected in global infrastructure systems (like Schneider Electric panels) by the Centre for Cyber Security and Cyber Defense of Critical Infrastructures based in IIT-Kanpur. Thus, Bharat can be a Cybersecurity hub for Quad in the Indo-pacific region. But, resources and technical support is needed to scale the capabilities further. For cyber-secure Indo-Pacific, Bharat must rank amongst the top 10 within the Global Cybersecurity Index.
 
Trade: Today, over one-third of world trade and one-half of the world's oil shipments transit the Malacca Straits, including 80 per cent of Japan's oil imports, 80 per cent of China's oil imports, and 90 per cent of South Korea's oil imports. Numerous LNG tankers destined for Japan and South Korea, the two largest LNG importers, also traverse the waterway.
 
Further, the Andaman can become an intermediary between Quad and the world on the one hand and as Bharat's global city on the other based on Foreign Direct Investments, trade and logistics, finance and tourism.
 
R&D: As per the Department for the Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Bharat has a steady inflow of FDI equity in traditional sectors such as services, ICT, pharmaceuticals/biotech, and automobile. Nevertheless, FDI in R&D is only 0.2 per cent.
 
As per UNCTAD, globally, Bharat has arisen as an attractive destination for greenfield FDI and MNC activities, mainly due to the accessibility of skilled human resources at lower wages. However, Bharat's innovation potential has hardly been tapped into by foreign multinationals.
 
Bharat welcomed Quad's immediate focus on vaccines and sharing of responsibility. Bharat is by now supplying 60 per cent of the global vaccines. The initiative will further enhance Bharat's vaccine manufacturing capacity. This could also pave the way for Bharat to become the manufacturing destination for Quad countries, thus reducing China's dependence
 
China’s R&D spending will surge by more than 7 per cent per year between 2021 and 2025. In 2020, China's spending on R&D climbed 10.3 per cent to $378 billion and accounted for 2.4 per cent of GDP.
 
Global Diplomacy: After it took over as a non-permanent member of the UNSC, Bharat will chair three important subsidiary committees, namely Taliban and Libya sanctions committees and also the Counter-Terrorism Committee. More than Bharat, the world needs Bharat as the permanent member of the UNSC as a fortification against further deterioration of the rules-based order in the Indo-pacific.
 
Further, Bharat should play a more prominent role in global technology policy decisions by being decision-makers in ITU and WIPO organisations. In the last four years, Bharat has increased its participation around five-fold in terms of technical contributions. ITU has recognised it, and hence a decision was taken to regional set-up office in Bharat and its first-ever innovation centre anywhere in the world. Further, the US should support Bharat's candidature and more prominent role in global agencies dealing with technology.
 
Bharat has the credibility and capability to realise, for the world, the motto: “posteracrescam laude” (meaning:“grow in the esteem of future generations”)
 
(The writer is the Pentland-Churchill fellow for Global Public Policy leadership at New York University and University College London)