The United States president Joe Biden would be clutching at straws when he meets Indian prime minister Narendra Modi individually and later at the QUAD summit in Washington on Friday, which has the two other heads of State, Scott Morrison (Australia) and Yoshihide Suga (Japan).
Biden would strive to draw Modi as an accomplice against China but trust the Indian leader to have seen through his inter-connected game in Afghanistan and AUKUS.
These two US moves, joined at hips, has pushed the world to the 1914 days when the First World War broke out which claimed 20 million lives and sowed the seeds of Germany’s discontent, culminating in Adolf Hitler’s emergence and another World War of 75 million lives lost.
Biden has lit the fire around Beijing’s edges by unleashing Islamist fundamentalists and terrorists in Afghanistan and the AUKUS (Australia, UK, US) deal would not keep the Indo-Pacific safe in the foreseeable future.
As said, the two moves are interconnected: Islamists at door would disrupt China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on land, its vehicle for regional dominance; and the AUKUS would keep Beijing on edge in its own water.
On September 15, US, Australia and UK signed a trilateral security pact, AUKUS, which would enable Australia with nuclear-powered submarines to be made available only in 2040! These three Anglo-Saxon nations, in doing so, have disregarded the concern of France and European Union and sought to draw South Asian nations in a bloc against China when a fair number of them are reliant on China’s money for their own infrastructure and financial woes.
In doing so, Australia has tore up its existing contract of next-generation submarines with France. Australia presently struggles to keep its six diesel-powered submarines operational but now has committed itself to build eight nuclear-powered submarines, never mind it neither has the trained manpower nor the nuclear infrastructure for the same. It’s also a moot point how these submarines would operate in its shallow waters, bulky and noisy as it would be, more a target themselves than to its enemies.
And look at the United States: In firmly upending the military scales, it has dumped France and NATO—“Biden has stabbed us in the back”—blown the concern of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore into thin air; and degraded India and Japan to second-tier status with the QUAD.
Modi Is Not Playing Biden’s Game
So now when he hosts Modi along with other QUAD leaders, Biden would seek his support in vain. Even in March, in the virtual QUAD summit, Modi had talked of an “inclusive” Indo-Pacific region and not “exclusive” which Biden and the military-industry hawks in Washington were hoping for. India has no reason to needle its next door neighbour China, more so when its prime partner, the United States, is as unfaithful as they come.
And so Modi had said in the virtual QUAD in March: “Our agenda today (is)…covering areas like vaccines, climate change and emerging technologies…we will work together…promoting a secure, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”
Now that Afghanistan and AUKUS has happened, without keeping India in the loop, there is little likelihood that Modi would play the hawkish game of Joe Biden.
It’s not just India. The entire Asia today is squirming in discomfort at first Afghanistan and now AUKUS. Allying with one superpower and alienating the other one is an insane option. A military conflict would be devastating for them as South Asia is at the centre of Indo-Pacific’s Great Game. It would be akin to surrendering its autonomy.
After all ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is central to Asia’s diplomatic grooves. It grew into calm once the Cold War ended and it would hate to return to those days due to US’ machinations. A non-ASEAN rising in the region isn’t to the liking of ASEAN countries. While these nations are worried on climate change and Covid-19 pandemic, the war bugles could be the game of an “outsider” like US and not theirs. This democracy vs authoritarian nonsense makes no sense to them. They don’t have an appetite for regional arms race.
Another Plan That US Is Brewing
US has quietly moved another piece on the chessboard. While China is heavily into its Belt and Road Initiative (see image below), US has floated its own B3W (Build Back Better World), announced in June at the G-7 summit in Cornwall, UK.
B3W is to counter China’s BRI which presently has influence in 138 countries. It aims to counter China’s global pivotl by providing $40 trillion, largely through the private sector, to low and middle income countries from Latin America to Africa to Asia. This is nothing but an infrastructure war between the United States and China. US is looking to checkmate China in its own game which, admittedly, won’t happen in near future.
This is US’ grand strategy to dominate the 21st century. China of course is up to such machinations. A day after the AUKUS was signed, China filed an application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
The CPTPP is signed by 11 countries, including Australia, a successor to now aborted Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It reaffirms Beijing won’t let go on its strategic interest in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific easily. And it intends to achieve so through its economic muscle, to draw ambivalent nations into its fold.
So be ready for warm handshakes and beaming faces of Biden and Modi in coming hours: But be sure that Modi is far too smart for Biden’s war games. India is cool enough to have already upstaged the United States in global vaccine diplomacy. It won’t fall for its QUAD bait either.