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Evolution of Quad 3.0: Food for thought

The concept of a free and open Indo-Pacific can only be achieved through a strong Quad 3.0. As an extension, if Quad 3.0 must succeed it must have a clear-cut aim and a strategy to deal with China.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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China’s economic, geographic, political and diplomatic assertion has made the Indo-Pacific the centre of gravity of international geopolitics. As long as the pandemic was raging and China was out of the grip of the Wuhan virus, its coercive actions could not be countered effectively in the Indo-Pacific region. However, all major powers have now started their vaccination programmes and are beginning to see light beyond the viral tunnel. The global recovery process is just about to begin and we are on the threshold of entering the post pandemic phase. It opens the way for Quad 3.0 to counter a predatory China. 

China was busy consolidating its gains to fast track its global domination ambitions. It had finessed the EU through a trade deal and managed to drive wedges in the Trans-Atlantic construct. The RCEP put most of the Asia Pacific in its pocket including two members of the Quad—Japan and Australia. The US was having severe internal problems with the attack on the Capitol and deep polarisation within. The Quad seemed dead once again. Xi Jinping had made a pompous ‘carrot and stick’ speech at Davos. The outreach to East European countries has been positive. It was also busy with military probing in the Himalayas and the Taiwan Straits. China was literally basking in the sun. However, there are blips and internal issues are surfacing. The virus has reappeared and has forced China to impose widespread lock downs. This is slowing down its economy. Tightening screws on big tech firms indicates that China is worried that they might get too big to control. It is coming heavily down on dissenters of any kind. Its vaccine diplomacy is not going as per plan. Its plummeting birth rates due to lack of jobs/affordability of children paint a picture of tight internal conditions. This is a negative spiral which will lead to a decreased workforce in a rapidly ageing country.

It is at this juncture that the President Biden has stated that he foresees Extreme Competition with China.  The US administration has also indicated that it intends to take the Quad forward. An online meeting of the Quad leaders to achieve a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” is in the air. The French have announced that they have carried out a submarine patrol in the South China Sea. The UK has earlier announced that it will deploy a carrier task force in the area. The US has deployed two carriers repeatedly in the area in the recent past. This will make China sit up. While the arrival of the Quad 3.0 is good news it is also pertinent to assess what should be its contours.  

At the outset, the behaviour of Quad 2.0 was conditioned by the fact that in Oct 2020, all the constituent countries were struggling to contain the virus and their economies were at the nadir. It was largely a defensive set of moves to stem the tide. The scene is far different now. All Quad countries have effective vaccines against the Virus. The US is galloping ahead with its vaccinations. India is on track. Australia and Japan seem to have their situation in hand as they are to shortly commence vaccinations. There is clarity that their economies will start reopening and recovering. The virus situation will be under control by the end of the year. Overall things are on the ascendancy. On the other hand, the economic situation in China is hazy. China’s vaccination programme has a long way to go to immunise their population. Till the population is immunised China can only resort to lockdowns, to keep the Virus at bay. Resultantly, China might be hitting an economic plateau. Quad strategies will be driven by this fact.

Earlier it was felt that aggressive Chinese behaviour was driving the Quad nations to coalesce. With their economic prospects relatively looking up, one might well ask – Is there a requirement for the Quad? In my opinion all Quad countries would have learned some lessons in the past one year. China is now too big to contain by a single power. It will need the combined heft of many. Having tasted success, China will not be deterred by a few blips. It will go all out to achieve what it wants in faster time frames to overcome the blips. In such a situation, there are enhanced dangers, down the line, of an unfettered China. Hence there is really no alternative but to commence transitioning to a formal agenda. There is no doubt in my mind that the Quad 3.0 will evolve faster than before. However, there are a few issues to consider.

What will be the outlook of Quad 3.0? Will the outlook of Quad 3.0 be to prevent China from dominating the South China Sea and its expansion into the larger Indo-Pacific? Prevention is defensive and incomplete by nature. The news that China, Russia and Iran want to hold naval exercises in the Indian Ocean, probably with Pakistan in the future, indicates the evolution of a counter Quad grouping. Very clearly, China is already attempting to break out from the confines of the South China Sea. On the other hand, will the outlook be to contain China? In my opinion, containment is more offensive and complete. Containment addresses the internal vulnerabilities of China. If those are addressed holistically, China will be reined in. Clarity in outlook is therefore important.

The next issue which Quad 3.0 has to seriously consider and resolve is that will it be a security-oriented grouping or will it move beyond that? Many opine that Quad 3.0 should focus beyond security issues and play a part in the post pandemic recovery. It implies that Quad 3.0 must have an economic agenda. Can it evolve beyond security into economic spheres? That is a huge challenge considering that all Quad countries are still deeply integrated with the Chinese economy. Specifically, Japan and Australia being part of RCEP, might have issues with an economic agenda for the Quad. However, it has to be realised that Quad nations are the best mix of consuming, producing and inventing economies. In fact, the US and India together can derail the vaccine diplomacy of China completely. The potential is therefore great. Will they have the political will to go the route and distance?

Another factor which Quad 3.0 has to consider is what will the role of ASEAN and European countries be in the current avatar. While ASEAN will have a role in economic issues, it will have a marginal role in military affairs. On the other hand, Quad will have to see how to bring France and the UK on its security platform so that a combined front is presented to China. The issue of Quad plus will also have to be revived and factored in. S Korea, Vietnam and New Zealand will have roles to play and be of value. However, how much they can contribute is a moot point due to their commitments in RCEP. Where does Taiwan fit into this equation? There is too much at stake militarily and economically to leave Taiwan out. Quad 3.0 will have a lot of diplomatic ground to cover if it has to achieve any of this.     

A major issue to confront Quad 3.0 will be the type of governments in the region. The larger Indo Pacific region has many military rulers, strongmen, family rulers, one party states, kingdoms and weak democracies running Governments. China is comfortable with and has been very successful with such systems. It has a good grip on such nations. Further many of them are bound to China by huge financial commitments / debt traps related to ongoing BRI projects. It will be a tall order just to compete with China in such conditions. Uprooting China in this environment will be difficult and daunting. Quad 3.0 must have flexible alternatives to deal with the situation.

There is no doubt that the current informal Quad grouping will be a deterrent on China. However, a formal grouping will impose real caution. Hence Quad 3.0 must endeavour to establish some degree of formality. The Quad countries must also evolve a set of expected common outcomes based on shared principles and values at the earliest. Some kind of a common minimum programme will be welcome. Complicated issues will take time to crystallise and resolve. Hence it is important to build upon issues where success has been achieved. To this end, the Malabar Naval exercises provide a good platform to start advancing security cooperation on a programmed basis. From there one can move to other issues. Also there has been a lot of talk about Quad being an Asian NATO. Quad 3.0 has to be eventually more than that. The concept of a free and open Indo-Pacific can only be achieved through a strong Quad 3.0. As an extension, if Quad 3.0 must succeed it must have a clear-cut aim and a strategy to deal with China. That will be the topic of my next article on Quad.

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on www.gunnersshot.com.

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Defence

Assam Rifles honours Covid-19 warriors on Sammaan Diwas

Ashish Singh

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New Delhi: The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown brought lives to a standstill and most of us enjoyed the privilege of staying safe at home. But the medical community including doctors, nurses and the medical staff fought this disease on the frontline, putting their own lives at risk. The healthcare professionals had cut themselves off from their families and loved ones. Several doctors even went to the extent of sacrificing their own lives in the line of duty. As the first immunisation drive started for 44 Assam Rifles under the aegis of 22 Sector Assam Rifles (AR)/ Inspector General Assam Rifles (IGAR)- East, the battalion took the opportunity to extend gratitude to all the healthcare professionals for their service by organising ‘Sammaan Diwas’ in Tamenglong HQ.

The Commandant felicitated the Covid-19 warriors stating that the sacrifices they have made every day for the safety and welfare of humanity is priceless and deserves our lifelong gratitude. The Commandant stated that although vaccination is voluntary and is being provided by govt free of cost, yet it is advisable to receive the complete schedule of Covid-19 vaccine for protecting one- self about this disease and also to limit the spread of this disease to other close contacts including family members, friends, relatives and co-workers. The Covid vaccination drive is a proud moment for us Indians and is a great milestone in India’s scientific research capability.

The Indian scientists and innovators have come forward to serve the cause for humanity. This development is an acceleration on the road to a healthier and Covid-free society. He urged the local public to come forward voluntarily to get vaccinated.

A local haat was displayed at the event showing different colours of the northeast through a range of handicrafts made of wood, bamboo and metals. These crafts, made by the villagers of Tamenglong, are part of 44 Assam Rifles’ initiative for ‘Vocal to Local ‘ to promote the crafts of the Northeast to the rest of India and provide a push to the local economy.

Due to nationwide lockdown in 2020 many local youth lost their jobs and are now struggling for their livelihood. The Northeast has earned appreciation from all across the nation for its rich culture, heritage and art. Since time immemorial craftsmanship and artistry have been a source of livelihood in rural areas.  These artisans were given tremendous respect admiration and appreciation. Lack of opportunities and demand have overshadowed the excellence, creativity and hard work of these rural artisans and their traditional artistry.

To further strengthen the Vocal for Local and Make in India initiatives, 44 Assam Rifles is helping rural artisans and craftsmen by providing skills, employment, opportunities, offering facilities to sell their products in newer markets. The unit is showcasing these local handicrafts in all its public outreach programmes to seek prospective buyers.

The Commandant also thanked Dr Pinky Sarangthem, Rapid Response Team WHO, Dr Chambo Gonmei, CMO Tamenglong & his medical team from the Office of the District Health Society, Tamenglong and the CMO, doctors and other medical staff of the battalion for their immense selfless contribution to society.

In the address to the troops and public at the event, Dr Pinky Sarangthem, RRT WHO and Dr Chambo Gonmei, CMO Tamenglong highlighted the effectiveness of the vaccine stating that the post vaccination symptoms are minimal and temporary but at the same time cautioned that drinking and smoking will interfere with the production of antibodies in the body after the vaccination has been carried out.

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Defence

Coast Guard averts major narcotics transshipment in Lakshadweep sea

Ashish Singh

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New Delhi: Indian Coast Guard has once again been successful in averting a major drug transshipment via sea route in the Lakshadweep Sea. Indian Coast Guard ships and aircraft while on patrol off the Lakshadweep islands observed suspicious movements of three Sri Lankan fishing boats. The boats were continuously monitored by the CG units and were subsequently intercepted and checked at the opportune moment.

Initial investigation revealed that Sri Lankan Fishing Boat (SLFB) Akarsha Duwa was at sea for longer duration of over a fortnight. Inconsistent information received and abnormal behaviour of crew further raised the suspicion level. As the crew were giving misleading statements, they were interrogated tactfully upon which the crew admitted having been involved in smuggling of narcotics/contraband. While en-route, the crew noticed presence of Indian Coast Guard ships and aircraft in the area. With the fear of getting apprehended, the crew decided to flee the area.

However, on realising that fleeing from ICG ships was impossible, they dropped five bags of contraband weighing around 260 kg of narcotics in water. The value of these narcotics in international market is approximately Rs. 2100 Cr. In a similar operation in Nov 2020, Indian Coast Guard had apprehended Sri Lankan fishing boat ‘Shenaya Duwa’ off Kanyakumari, carrying narcotics worth value approximately Rs. 1000 Cr in the International market.

Due to rough sea conditions off Minicoy Islands, the boats were brought to Vizhinjam near Thiruvananthapuram on 7 March for further interrogation by the concerned security agencies. Post rummaging and joint investigation at Vizhinjam, SLFB Akarsha Duwa alongwith 06 Sri Lankan crew was detained for final investigation. Two other Sri Lankan boats with crew were released for handing over to Sri Lankan authorities for further investigation due to considerable quantity of fish stock onboard.

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Defence

In a first, Indian Naval Ships to visit Bangladesh’s historic port city

Ashish Singh

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New Delhi: Indian Naval Ships Sumedha, an indigenously build Offshore Patrol vessel and Kulish, an indigenously built guided missile corvette, are scheduled to make a port call at the historic port town of Mongla in Bangladesh from 8th to 10th March to commemorate the ongoing Swarnim Vijay Varsh and reiterating the historic Indo-Bangladeshi friendship.

This is the first time that any Indian Naval Ship is visiting the port of Mongla in Bangladesh and the visit is aimed at paying homage to the Bangladeshi and Indian combatants and citizens who laid down their lives during the Liberation War of 1971, and reiterate India’s firm resolve and commitment to maintain peace, stability and good order in the region, in line with SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region), as articulated by the Prime Minister. On behalf of the Chief of Naval Staff, the Commanding Officers of the ships will call on the senior Bangladesh Navy hierarchy to reaffirm Indian Navy’s solidarity and partnership with the Bangladesh Navy.

Following all Covid-19 protocols, the ships’ crew will also participate in professional and cultural exchanges as well as friendly sports fixtures with their counterparts in the Bangladesh Navy, further enhancing synergy between the two navies.

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Defence

INDIAN ARMY CELEBRATES WOMEN’S DAY AT MULTIPLE CORPS

Ashish Singh

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New Delhi: Command Hospital, Northern Command, Udhampur celebrated International Women’s Day 2021 on Monday highlighting the contributions and personal sacrifices made by lady corona warriors of Command Hospital (Northern Command) during the recent Covid pandemic. The theme of the event was “Corona Ke Vaar Pe Naari Shakti Ka Prahaar!”

Despite long working hours they put their foot forward to save innumerable lives. Experiences of these women of substance were shared with the audience. Sudha Mohan, Regional Vice President AWWA (Northern Command) was the Chief Guest and she felicitated the brave women on this occasion. Sudha Mohan also lauded the efforts of the uniformed lady health care workers during the pandemic. Speaking on the occasion, the Commandant of the Command Hospital, Northern Command, Maj Gen A.K. Jindal highlighted the compassion with which the women corona warriors worked selflessly during the fight against corona & thanked them for extreme dedication and their tireless work for the community.

Among the first Service hospitals to initiate RT-PCR testing, the Command Hospital, Northern Command at Udhampur was the first service hospital to conduct more than one lakh Covid tests. During the Covid pandemic the Command Hospital, proactively conceptualised and operationalised capacity building for Covid-19 patient care & extended full support to the Civil Administration in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir.  

VIRTUAL VEER NARI MEET

As part of annual the ‘Atoot Bandhan’ initiative, Machhal Rashtriya Rifles Battalion, Kupwara organises felicitation program for the Veer Naris every year. However, this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and various advisories on the subject, it was not prudent to organise such a large gathering. Therefore, this year the event was conducted virtually in which the Veer Naris were not required to travel physically to the venue and had participated online via video-conferencing. Necessary co-ordination was done by the volunteers from the battalion for the smooth conduct of the event.

These volunteers on behalf of the battalion presented mementoes to the Veer Naris. To make this event possible, the volunteers of the battalion travelled all the way from Machhal to Madurai in Tamil Nadu, Bhavnagar & Vadodara in Gujarat, Gorakhpur (UP), Bhagalpur (Bihar), Sangrur (Punjab), Ujjain (MP), Jhunjhunu & Bhilwara in Rajasthan and Satara, Sangali, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, Parbhani, Beed & Mumbai in Maharashtra. They also apprised the families regarding the activities of the battalion and about the various welfare schemes and provisions by the Government of India, State Government & the Indian Army.

The grievances and difficulties faced by the Veer Naris were also noted for resolution. This Battalion has served in Uri, Baramulla and Machhal (Kupwara) since raising in year 2004 and this was the first time in the history that local Kashmiri Youth had participated in the event and felicitated the Veer Naris on the behalf of Kashmiri Awaam. Patriotic Kashmiri citizens have physically travelled to the location of events all the way from Kashmir to express gratitude and pay their respect to the soldiers’ families who had made the supreme sacrifice for the cause of Kashmir.

NCC GIRL CADETS FELICITATED

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the NCC Directorate of Maharashtra organised an event to commemorate the contribution of Women and Girls of NCC in various fields. Yashomati Chandrakant Thakur, Honorable Minister for Woman and Child Development in the Maharashtra government, who had also been an NCC Cadet, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest along with Sunil Kedar, Minister for Youth Welfare and Sports in Govt of Maharashtra. Principals of various schools/colleges of Mumbai were present along with lady Associate NCC officers. Nearly thirty NCC Girl cadets from various schools & colleges attended the function.

Maj Gen Y.P. Khanduri, Additional Director General NCC Maharashtra Directorate and Khanduri introduced the Ministers to all the officers from NCC and the cadets from all three wings of Armed Forces who have been instrumental in various socially relevant programmes especially in times of Covid 19 pandemic. Yashomati Chandrakant Thakur also exhorted the girl cadets to continue their stellar contribution to the society and always strive hard to achieve their objectives by never giving up.

Cadet Warrant Officer Kashish Methwani of 3 Maharashtra Air Squadron Pune, who was adjudged the best cadet in the Republic Day Parade 2021 and Junior Wing Cadet Kaamya Karthikeyan of 1 Naval unit, Maharashtra were presented a memento by the Chief Guest for their achievements. Cadet Kaamya also shared her experience of an adventurous journey of being a young mountaineer and awardee of Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Shakti Puraskar for being the youngest girl to summit Mt. Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America.

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Defence

MOU BETWEEN ARMY NORTHERN COMMAND AND IIT JAMMU TO DEVELOP TECHNOLOGIES

Ashish Singh

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A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Headquarters Northern Command represented by Lt Gen S. Harimohan Iyer, Chief of Staff, Headquarters Northern Command and Indian Institute of Technology, Jammu (IIT Jammu) represented by Prof Manoj Singh Gaur, Director, Indian Institute of Technology, Jammu.

The objective of this MoU is to leverage the academic and technological prowess of Indian Institute of Technology, Jammu and domain knowledge/ expertise of Northern Command, in development of defence technology solutions and taking up joint projects for innovative solutions to weapon systems and equipment related problems of Northern Command.

The scope of the cooperation will be Research and Development (R&D) activities related to Northern Command, leveraging IIT Jammu’s expertise and technical infrastructure, and mutual interest and benefits on Research and Development (R&D) projects to solve Army’s problems which require research and experimentation.

The cost with respect to development of the project will be borne by the respective organisations as mutually agreed upon in respect of each project.

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Defence

NCC conducts week-long combined annual training camp in Agartala

Ashish Singh

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A week-long Combined Annual Training Camp for NCC cadets of Tripura NCC units which commenced at Agartala on 28 February culminated on Sunday. About 115 Senior Division & Senior Wing Cadets from various institutions in Tripura participated in this camp.

Professor Satyadeo Poddar, Vice Chancellor, MBB University, Agartala, was the Chief Guest at the Camp Closing Ceremony who gave away Prizes to the participating Cadets. He complimented the NCC training staff for imparting excellent training to the Cadets. Sharing his personal experience as a former NCC Cadet, he exhorted the Cadets to be physically fit, mentally robust and imbibe the virtues of NCC training in letter and spirit. He emphasised upon the need to work selflessly and contribute individually as well collectively towards Nation building, keeping the Motto of NCC always as the guiding factor.  

The camp was conducted by 13 Tripura Bn NCC Agartala under the aegis of NCC Directorate, NER, Shillong and NCC Group HQ Silchar with the timely assistance of Education Department, Government of Tripura. It was the first camp to be organised post Covid-19 pandemic.  The closing event was preceded by a Swachhata Awareness Rally.

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