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On Blocs & Blockades

QUAD or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), a strategic security dialogue between Australia, India, Japan and the US, has started influencing ties between India and Russia. The Kremlin has accused India of adopting anti-Russia and anti-China policy through the QUAD, as an ally of the US. India has rejected the allegation, stressing that QUAD is for all, and its activities are aimed not against any particular country. So far, New Delhi has maintained a diplomatic balance on the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and is yet to criticise Russia at a global platform, unlike the US and its Western allies. Instead, India has repeatedly called for an end to attacks on Ukraine.

India is still importing crude oil from Russia at a cheap rate. However, Russia’s dependence on China has increased, with the war dragging on. Hence, India’s discomfort and problems, too, have increased in recent times. According to experts in Foreign Policy, it would be difficult for India to maintain a balance between Russia and the West in the coming days.

Ajit Doval, the National Security Adviser (NSA) of India, recently visited Moscow to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev. The senior Indian diplomat made it clear to Patrushev that Russia’s over-dependence on China has been a major problem for India. Even after more than two years, China refused to withdraw its troops from its borders with India. According to Doval, Moscow’s love affairs with Beijing may prompt New Delhi to counter the Chinese aggression with the help of Washington DC. The visiting Indian official further informed Patrushev that India ignored the pressure from the Western bloc, as the South Asian nation considered Russia as its strategic ally.

Ajit Kumar Doval, the National Security Adviser of India

In reality, it has become increasingly difficult for Moscow to formulate any foreign policy excluding Beijing. Speaking at an event in Tashkent in mid-August (2022), Patrushev was heard stating that the US and its allies were trying to create their own bloc in the Indo-Pacific Region, adding that they were trying to get other countries into it as much as possible. Patrushev claimed that this policy was against Russia and China.

It may be noted that Russia had pointed fingers at this quadrilateral axis or Australia, India, Japan and the US in the past, mentioning that the US was using QUAD to expand the presence of NATO in the Pacific Ocean. During his recent visit to Thailand, Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar reportedly said that the Indo-Pacific Region could benefit from the QUAD. He revealed that QUAD members would extend over USD 50 billion of infrastructure assistance and investment in the Indo-Pacific over the next five years. He further mentioned that the QUAD was working on in the areas of technology, climate action, disaster prevention, counter-terrorism and preventing illegal fishing. “If there are reservations (about the QUAD) in any quarter, these stem from a desire to exercise a veto on the choices of others. And possibly a unilateralist opposition to collective and cooperative endeavours,” stressed Dr Jaishankar.

Dr Jaishankar

Interestingly, China is reportedly the source of 80-95% of illegal fishing in the Indo-Pacific. The Hindustan Times daily has reported that the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) plans to use satellite imagery and technology to combat illegal fishing and dubious operations of the Chinese maritime militia.

As the Indian minister has sent a similar message to the Kremlin, diplomats believe that India’s relationship with Russia is bound to have an impact of this. They are of the opinion that India shall never leave the QUAD under any circumstances, as New Delhi shall need the US’ support to tackle a larger geopolitical conflict with neighbouring China in future. India, Japan, Australia and some other countries are in trouble because of China’s attempt to monopolise commercial and strategic dominance in the Indo-Pacific Region.

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