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Changing Roles of Japan and India in QUAD

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The Russia-Ukraine War not only changed the balance of power in the world, but also increased the interest in Asia-Pacific.  Some powers from both Europe and the Pacific have had the chance to take advantage of this global power balance that Russia has disrupted.  It can be said that Japan and India have started to follow an active foreign policy in the Pacific, although it is seen that especially England and Germany come to the fore in Europe.  In addition, the link between Europe and the Pacific is getting stronger.  The reason for this can be seen as the “othering” of Russia and China in world politics.  Because the powers in both Europe and the Pacific tend to cooperate against Russia and China.

Despite everything, actors like India, who try to maintain their neutrality in this new Cold War, play the role of “balancing actor” in the world system.  In this context, at the Quadruple Security Dialogue (QUAD) Summit held in Tokyo, the capital of Japan, on May 22, 2022, it was seen that India was put under pressure.  The United States of America (USA) and its allies tried to channel India more strongly to QUAD at the summit, and also focused on removing it from the Russia-China axis.  It can be said that Japan has undertaken the main mission in this regard.  The QUAD platform is considered to be the basis for creating an “anti-China” alliance in the Pacific, similar to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  However, it will not be easy to convince India of this.  Therefore, the USA may try to use actors such as the UK and Japan as mediators to achieve this.

We can say that Japan has taken more initiatives within QUAD and has made a special effort to strongly integrate India into this platform.  In fact, it can be argued that the mission of strengthening the anti-Chinese axis in the Pacific was given to Japan by the USA.  Because the active policy of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in foreign policy in recent months has caused interest to focus on Tokyo both in the Pacific and in Europe.  In recent months, Kishida has visited New Delhi to persuade India to take a tougher stance against Russia.  Because India is the only state among the QUAD countries that does not criticize Russia and does not impose sanctions on it.  So to speak, India refers to the “crack” in the QUAD.  Japan, on the other hand, seems to have undertaken the task of closing this crack.  Another mission given to Japan here is to lay the foundations of a collective defense organization responsible for the security of the Pacific, if possible within the scope of QUAD or any other framework. In this context, Japan is trying to deepen its military cooperation with countries such as India, Australia, England, Germany, Italy, Indonesia and Thailand, taking into account the possible danger of war with China in the Pacific.  Japan signs reciprocal access agreements with its interlocutors that allow soldiers to be stationed at each other’s bases in time of war, and conducts joint naval exercises.

The claims that the USA has laid the foundations of a secret NATO formation in the region through Japan have started to gain intensity recently.  But Washington primarily desires the expansion of QUAD.  In the long term, South Korea is planned to participate in QUAD as an observer.  It is noteworthy in this sense that US President Joe Biden visited South Korea before moving on to Tokyo.  However, the historical disagreements between South Korea and Japan make it difficult for these two countries to come together in QUAD.  Some differences of opinion in the Pacific prevent the establishment of “NATO 2.0”.  For example, Japan wants to join the “Five Eyes”, the intelligence network of the Anglo-Saxon powers in the Pacific.  However, the UK opposes this.  It cites some cultural-communicative difficulties as the reason for this.  Similarly, it is claimed that Japan wants to join AUKUS led by the USA and the UK. [1] However, the parties have not yet made any statement that they have plans to establish “JAUKUS”.

Another pillar of the disagreements in question is New Zealand.  The recent signing of a security agreement by Japan and New Zealand has led to comments that Tokyo is approaching the Anglo-Saxon alliance.  New Zealand, on the other hand, may intend to join the QUAD.  Because in the past, along with South Korea and Vietnam, New Zealand participated in QUAD Plus, which was organized within the scope of Covid-19 aid.  Therefore, these countries are also candidates to become permanent members of QUAD.  On the other hand, the Wellington administration wants a nuclear-free Pacific.  Therefore, it should not be expected to join an alliance like AUKUS or JAUKUS.

Britain is the biggest part of the differences of opinion in the Pacific.  Because, interestingly, it is seen that England is not included in the QUAD mechanism.  This indicates that London has a separate agenda from Washington in the Pacific.  Also, the UK may think that the US-led QUAD is insufficient or unsuccessful.  British officials even stated that NATO should deal with threats in the Pacific.  In addition to this, London said it would not be possible to further strengthen QUAD and transform it into a collective defense organisation;  because it thinks that India cannot be persuaded for this purpose.  In other words, while the biggest defenders of QUAD are the USA and Japan;  the UK appears to be looking for alternative solutions in the Pacific.  At this point, it is necessary to mention the India factor, which England emphasized.

The USA is trying to get India to be at odds with both Russia and China.  That’s why the Washington administration, which keeps China’s border conflicts with India constantly on the agenda, is considered to open a second front against China from Kashmir in case of a possible war in Taiwan.  But India does not want any more hostilities with China.  It even does not want to get involved in Taiwan-related matters.  In this regard, India seems to favor QUAD to remain a peaceful platform.  The USA, on the other hand, wants India to give more support to QUAD.  In line with this purpose, the approach that the USA is in an effort to confront India with China gains weight.

While there is a possibility of conflict between India and China over the border issue;  it has no reason to quarrel with Russia.  On the contrary, there are many reasons for the cooperation of the two countries.  So QUAD could be India’s biggest foreign policy impasse.  Because this situation harms its relations with Russia.  Because New Delhi is trying to explain to its counterparts in Moscow that this alliance “is not a NATO-like structure and is certainly not on the side of the West”.  This situation of insecurity limits India-Russia relations.  However, India sees no harm in discussing the “Chinese threat” within the framework of QUAD.

On the other hand, Russia asks India not to “join an anti-Chinese alliance”.  If India contributes to the expansion of QUAD and its transformation into a defense alliance, it can be predicted that Russia and China will react harshly to this situation.  Perhaps China can launch a new attack on the Indian border.  Both sides have trump cards.  While China uses border problems as leverage; India considers QUAD and the USA as a pressure factor against China.

As a result, the roles of Japan and India in QUAD are changing.  Tokyo is taking more initiative; while New Delhi wants to stay in the background. It should not be forgotten that;  India insistently refuses to take a stand against Russia and wants to have leverage against the West.  It is also possible to interpret this as a part of India’s “bluffing policy” against the West.  Japan, on the other hand, seeks to increase its position in global politics by trying to establish a connection between the Pacific and Europe.  However, it should not be forgotten that the main stabilizing actor in the global system is India.  New Delhi’s choice can shape the future of both Europe and the Pacific.

[1] “Washington and Tokyo Deny Japan Invited to Join AUKUS Security Pact”, Japan Times, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/04/14/national/japan-aukus-join-denial/, (Date of Accession: 11.05.2022).

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer, 2014 yılında Sakarya Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Aynı yıl Gazi Üniversitesi Ortadoğu ve Afrika Çalışmaları Bilim Dalı’nda yüksek lisans eğitimine başlamıştır. 2016 yılında “1990 Sonrası İran’ın Irak Politikası” başlıklı teziyle master eğitimini tamamlayan Tamer, 2017 yılında ANKASAM’da Araştırma Asistanı olarak göreve başlamış ve aynı yıl Gazi Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Doktora Programı’na kabul edilmiştir. Uzmanlık alanları İran, Mezhepler, Tasavvuf, Mehdilik, Kimlik Siyaseti ve Asya-Pasifik olan ve iyi derecede İngilizce bilen Tamer, Gazi Üniversitesindeki doktora eğitimini “Sosyal İnşacılık Teorisi ve Güvenlikleştirme Yaklaşımı Çerçevesinde İran İslam Cumhuriyeti’nde Kimlik İnşası Süreci ve Mehdilik” adlı tez çalışmasıyla 2022 yılında tamamlamıştır. Şu anda ise ANKASAM’da Asya-Pasifik Uzmanı olarak görev almaktadır.