With India moving closer to the US, as well as its own anti-China stance in recent years, it’s fair to say that BRICS and the SCO have fallen into stagnation since the Doklam standoff in 2017. India has clear demands in the SCO and BRICS. One is anti-terrorism; the other is to use the financial platforms of these groupings, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank, to win as much financial support as possible. But in other respects, India has basically adopted a non-cooperative attitude, which has greatly restricted these groupings’ development in recent years.
India has become a negative asset of these groupings. China in February said it is backing India to host the 2021 BRICS summit. It seems India has failed to understand China’s goodwill. India takes all support from China for granted. It is, in fact, carrying out a kind of strategic blackmail against China.
On the other hand, India has attached more importance to Quad, and is very sure about its core demands of the US’ Indo-Pacific Strategy – to counterbalance, contain and deter China. India fears China will become the dominant force in Asia, and it does not want to see this happen. However, India cannot compete with China on its own, and thus it hopes to contain China together with like-minded countries.
India also hopes to win more support from the US, Japan and Australia. It does not want Quad to only focus on military cooperation, but also economic and financial ones. New Delhi wants Western countries to provide it with funding and technology and help it to build value and industry chains that can replace China. After the COVID-19 outbreak, India has been actively negotiating this with the other three Quad members. One of the focuses of this upcoming Quad summit is reportedly to announce financing to boost India’s vaccine output.
India has been very proactive both bilaterally and multilaterally to promote the development of Quad. In 2019, it upgraded its engagement with Quad to ministerial level, which can be seen as a major move of India. In 2020, India signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for geo-spatial cooperation with the US, included Australia in the Malabar military exercise and signed a mutual logistics support arrangement with Japan. However, these moves have worsened India’s relations with China and Russia. In 2020, the India-Russia annual summit was postponed for the first time ever after Moscow expressed severe reservations on New Delhi joining Quad.
India may still want to maintain a swaying state and a balance between the Indo-Pacific and Eurasia. However, the so-called balance does not exist anymore. India is now very inclined toward the US’ Indo-Pacific Strategy. India is now gradually breaking the balance. If it goes further down this road, it will eventually lose strategic autonomy, completely become the US’ hatchet man against China in the Indo-Pacific region, or even cannon fodder.
Biden upgraded Quad to the leaders’ level not long after he assumed office. It’s expected the US will continue to strengthen the four-country grouping in the future. India is considered by the US as the most important Quad member. The US’ strategic goal is to use India to counterbalance and contain China. Quad is likely to expand in the future. No matter how it expands, the regional security structure it wants to establish is exclusive to China and Russia.
India now has moved three major steps forward, tilting toward Quad. It supported the resumption of Quad dialogue at the official level in 2017, upgraded its engagement to ministerial level in 2019 and now to the leaders’ level, most recently. It’s time to stop and pay more attention to the reactions from China and Russia.
India is moving too close to the US, and a de facto alliance has been formed. If it continues to seek courtship with the US and Quad so proactively, it will yield negative results and completely tie itself to the US’ chariot. New Delhi needs to take a more cautious attitude and think twice. China showed its goodwill by expressing support for India to host the BRICS summit. There have been many areas where China and India could tap cooperation. India shouldn’t play with fire, or it will end up burning itself.
(The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Yu Jincui based on an interview with Liu Zongyi, secretary-general of the Research Center for China-South Asia Cooperation at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, a visiting fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China, and a distinguished fellow of the China (Kunming) South Asia & Southeast Asia Institute.)