The US-India-Japan-Australia-Singapore Navies just concluded a joint-naval training exercise called “Malabar.”

The world’s economic center of gravity is shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Development in East Asia has made the region more geopolitically significant than Europe and Russia. The “Quadrilateral Initiative” is the transformative Pacific Alliance that is already surpassing NATO in relevance.

America’s economic and political future depends on how well it manages this new world. The US has created a four-way alliance with India, Japan, Australia and it also expanded its alliance with the smaller ASEAN states. These are the most important allies for the US in today’s world.

I think when the partisan dust settles, historians will appreciate the audacity and success of President Bush’s Asian policies. The Quad Initiative represents America’s core allies in the new century.

In 2005, the US recognized India as a legitimate Nuclear Power in spite of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The US began sharing nuclear technology with India and this enabled the creation of a military and economic partnership.

Back then, Fred Kaplan at Slate commented:

This week, the Bush administration pulled off the deftest geopolitical maneuver that any U.S. regime has managed in more than a decade…
The big move, which didn’t get nearly the banner headlines it deserved, took place on July 19, when President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issued a joint statement resolving to “transform” the relationship between their two countries and to “establish a global partnership.”

The centerpiece of this grand alliance is a U.S. pledge to provide full assistance to India’s nuclear energy sector—in short, to treat India “as a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology” that should be allowed to “acquire the same benefits and advantages as other such states.”

During the Cold War, India partnered with the Soviet Union. The Indian government favored socialist policies and wanted cheap Soviet military equipment. The US and China backed Pakistan. This often meant the US and India were on opposite sides.

When India tested nuclear weapons in the 1990s, President Clinton responded by placing trade sanctions on India and tried to enforce the NPT. India refused to comply. For awhile, the Democratic Party slammed India, blaming it for “outsourcing” poor labor and environmental practices, and so on.

The geopolitical problem was simple. India was a rising great power but received no recognition of this fact. It is denied a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The antiquated NPT did not recognize India as a legit Great Power when the treaty was signed in the 1960s. Today India’s economy is booming and it’s Middle Class is larger than the entire US population. It is armed with nuclear weapons and a reasonably modern military. India is the hegemony of South Asia and has growing global clout. It was going to make itself heard one way or another.

Bush reversed Clinton’s myopic policy. He circumvented the antiquated international laws that refused to recognize India’s ascension to Great Power status. He also addressed India’s concerns with Pakistan and China – and after 9/11, the US shared many of these concerns. The US co-opted India’s ambitions.

The US is also increasing its military ties with the Japanese Navy. While Japan is supposedly has a pacifist constitution and a basic home defense force, in reality it has the world’s third most powerful navy. Japan’s economy is the 2nd most productive in the world, so it has enormous capacity to militarize in an emergency.

A joint US-Japan-India-Australia-ASEAN alliance gives them complete dominance over the Pacific. China lacks any ability to challenge such an alliance on military terms. This “constrains” Chinese options to economic engagement with the world.

This American led Asian alliance will be useful for fighting the Islamist Global Insurgency and creating security for vulnerable chokepoints like the Straights of Malacca.

The Strait of Malacca connects the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea. This narrow waterway is crucial to maritime trade – it is one of the busiest ocean highways in the world. Its traffic density is projected to increase from 94,000 ships in 2004 to 141,000 in 2020. A quarter of the world’s oil shipments pass through this waterway every day. Half of China’s imported oil and 95% of the oil shipped to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan pass through the strait.

Although China is not a Bay of Bengal littoral, it has systematically cultivated naval ties with Bangladesh and Myanmar to attain access to these waters. Its presence in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean has been growing thanks to such ties – a matter of grave concern to such countries as India.

The joint naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal sends out a message to the Chinese navy “that its future presence will not go unchallenged in the Indian Ocean”, said Prabhakar.

China is a bit miffed, but they knew this would happen.

The Quad will secure economic access points in Asia and the Global Commons. As a bonus, it checks China military power and ambitions in the region.

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