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India-Japan-Australia-USA Quadrilateral Axis: Is it Possible?
Lately there has been talk for the formation of a four-cornered axis between India, Japan, Australia and the USA in relation to strategic and economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific for balancing the power equation in this part of the world.

THE EFFORT to form the quadrilateral axis is also to contain the rise of China in relation to East Asia and the ASEAN. The ASEAN grouping has also given an indirect go ahead to it by welcoming such a formation, as they also fear the Chinese domination in the ASEAN sphere of influence.

 

If the Bush administration has spoken of an expanded APEC, which should include India, Japan has advocated the idea of the above axis. India has jumped into the whole proposal by welcoming both the ideas wholeheartedly. The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proposed for a new four-way framework for strategic dialogue between Japan, India, Australia and the United States. The Australian Premier John Howard has advocated of greater cooperation between India, Japan and Australia in future to keep a balance in this part of the world.

 

Advocates of such an alliance argue that peace in 21st Century can only be guaranteed, when maritime Allied Powers Japan, India, United States and Australia agree to form UJIA Treaty Organization, to secure the domination of the Indian Ocean and Pacific Oceans to thwart the peril of a New Chinese Empire. India, Australia, USA and Japan share a strong commitment to freedom, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Japan and China have lingering tension linked to the legacy of Japanese aggression in the 1930s and 1940s

 

Japan’s energy security and trade flows are heavily dependent on secure routes through the Indian Ocean and India is in a position to cooperate and constructively contribute towards this objective.

 

Economic Cooperation between the two nations has been buoyant with Japan’s total loans to India amounting to $4,239.0 million in 2004, grant aid were of the order of $ 399.2 million, while technical cooperation totaled to an amount of $ 179.5 million. Presently, Japan is the fifth major trading partner of India having a share of 3.1% in India’s total exports and imports 2003-04. The Delhi metro rail which has a total budget of Rupees 10,000 crores has over 90 % of its investment coming from the Japan Bank for Development.

 

Again the Japanese government has recently promised highest ever investments overseas in India to the tune of 90 million US dollars which is a huge investment ever done by Japan in Asia. However expansion of ties between India and Japan have started quite late in comparison to Japan’s ties with the other Asian countries like South Korea, ASEAN and so on. However things are looking bright now.

 

Australia and India lately have expanded their bilateral talks on issues relating to transnational threats, particularly terrorism, as well as defence and border security. Australia has welcomed increased global and regional focus of India on maritime security in South and South-East Asia, which is of critical importance, given the dependence of regional economies on sea-borne trade. Two-way trade between the two countries in goods totaled $7.3 billion in 2004-05, with India becoming Australia’s 12th largest merchandise trading partner. Australian merchandise exports to India reached $6 billion in 2004-05, 4.8 per cent of total merchandise exports.

 

Australia and New Zealand both members of the US Nuclear Protection Shield have welcomed the recent India-US Civilian Nuclear Deal saying that it is a step in the right direction for India to quench her every increasing and safe energy requirements. This is a significant development as both the countries are quite wary of China’s rise and feel to neutralize it joining hands with India is a necessity now.

 

The Indian Navy’s cooperation with the U.S. Navy in the conduct of anti-terrorist patrols in the Malacca Straits in 2001 is illustrative of the important role India can play in this regard for this region as well as for this quadrilateral concept. The coming of the US largest nuclear Navy ship and docking into the Chennai port recently shows the importance of this growing alliance

 

As per US trade data released by the US Department of Commerce, merchandise exports from India to USA grew by +21.4% in 2002 compared to 2001, rising from $9.74 billion to $11.82 billion. This strong performance reflects the highest annual percentage growth in Indian exports to USA over the past decade. It is particularly noteworthy, as it has occurred against a backdrop of lackluster growth in worldwide exports to USA in 2002. India has emerged as the 19th largest merchandise exporter to USA in 2002.

 

On the sidelines of the ASEAN and East Asia Summit and more recently this whole proposal was discussed on the sidelines of the G8 summit between the heads of Japan, India, USA and Australia. All of them have given serious go ahead to work on this, only time will judge its success rate. The very discussion of this concept has sent ripples over the Chinese establishments so much so that the Chinese Foreign affairs department had sent individual dim ache to each country asking for clarification as to what were the motives of floating such an idea. Thus one can gauge from the Chinese attitude as to how important this whole grouping can be for the strategic and economic alliance of all these important countries of Asia-Pacific. If formed on the basis of solid foundation it can have a huge impact on the security of Asia and would be ideal for containing the growing might of China by encircling it from all sides which is very much required for India’s own security and economic interests.

 

 

The writer is renowned Foreign Affairs and Economic Expert, Chairman Global Council for Peace and Convenor Debating India.

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