The IOR is the region around the Indian Ocean. It includes the 22 member nations of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), along with other countries such as Myanmar in Southeast Asia, Pakistan, and Djibouti in East Africa.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) fleet is increasingly designed for oceanic deployments beyond China’s near seas and is rapidly expanding its amphibious capability. The PLAN conducts frequent oceanographic survey and submarine deployments, maintaining a constant presence of at least seven or eight navy ships in the Indian Ocean at any time. Having established its first-ever overseas military base on the western edge of the ocean, in Djibouti in 2017, China continues to develop other ports from Tanzania to Indonesia under the banner of the Belt and Road Initiative. It is also expanding security cooperation with regional states.
In recent years, China has helped to build a network of ports or facilities in South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Myanmar and secured docking rights in Seychelles. China is also developing key ports in Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa. However, many security experts see no reason for alarm. They point out that ports cannot be quickly converted into naval facilities. “Because the fact is in war time no port in the Indian Ocean is going to be available to the Chinese navy,” noted strategic affairs analyst Bharat Karnad at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. “No port. Because none of these countries can afford to alienate India.
China’s expanding military capacity in the Indian Ocean region also poses risks for the United States and its partners. The United States and its partners—namely, the United States, India, Japan, and Australia, which banded together as the “Quad” — have proclaimed their commitment to the “free and open Indo-Pacific” vision. India, the United States, Japan and Australia carried their largest joint naval exercises in over a decade in Nov 2020 seen as part of efforts to balance China’s vast military and economic power in the region. Five ships of the Indian Navy, including a submarine, were deployed in the exercise along with U.S. Navy’s John S McCain missile destroyer, Australia’s Ballarat frigate and a Japanese destroyer, the Indian ministry of defence said.
Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD, also known as the Quad)
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD, also known as the Quad) is an informal strategic dialogue between the United States, Japan, Australia and India that is maintained by talks between member countries. During the 2017 ASEAN Summits, In Manila, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and President Donald Trump of the United States agreed to revive the security pact in order to confront China militarily and diplomatically in the South China Sea. A 2021 joint statement, “The Spirit of the Quad,” emphasizes the shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, the rules-based maritime order in the East and South China Seas, and pledge to respond to the economic and health impacts of COVID-19.
On 3 March 2021, The White House issued “Interim National Security Strategic Guidance”, and two days later, Australian Prime Minister Morrison told that the leaders of the Quad will hold their first-ever meeting virtually. Morrison said he had discussed arrangements with US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in recent weeks. And in the next week, on 12 March, the first summit meeting was held virtually by the leadership of US President Biden.
Commitment of the Quad will be implemented by the launch of a senior-level Quad Vaccine Experts Group, The Quad Climate Working Group and The Quad Critical and Emerging Technology Working Group. It had been reported before the summit meeting that the four countries are working to develop a plan to distribute Covid-19 vaccines to countries in Asia as part of a broader strategy to counter China’s influence and that India had urged the other three countries to invest in its vaccine production capacity. The next summit meeting will be held in-person by the end of 2021.
After the Quadrilateral Summit, US Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin visited India and both countries agreed to further increase their military cooperation. It is quite noteworthy that both the countries have already signed military cooperation agreements such as LEMOA, COMCASA, and most recently BECA to eliminate the legal and operability challenges in the military, defense, and security cooperation.
In April, In a first, India joined its Quad partners — Australia, Japan and the U.S. — in a French-led naval drill in the Bay of Bengal , as the nations seek to improve Indo-Pacific maritime security.The first edition of the La Perouse exercise, named after an 18th century French naval officer and explorer, was held in 2019 without India. Three days of drills “will provide an opportunity for these five like-minded, high-end naval forces to develop closer links, sharpen their skills, and promote maritime cooperation throughout a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the French embassy in New Delhi said in a statement.
U.S. President Joe Biden will host a first in-person summit of leaders of the “Quad” countries – Australia, India, Japan and the United States – which have sought to boost co-operation to push back against China’s growing assertiveness. The summit will be held at the White House in Washington on Sept. 2021, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Emerging Quad (Russia, China, Pakistan, and Iran )
Russia and Iran have a long history of geographic, economic, and socio-political interaction. Mutual relations have often been turbulent, and dormant at other times. Currently Russia and Iran act as economic partners to one another since both countries are under sanctions by much of the Western world. Iran and Russia are strategic allies and form an axis in the Caucasus alongside Armenia. Iran and Russia are also military allies in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and partners in Afghanistan and post-Soviet Central Asia. Due to Western economic sanctions on Iran, Russia has become a key trading partner, especially in regard to the former’s excess oil reserves. Militarily, Iran is the only country in Western Asia that has been invited to join the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Russia’s own international treaty organization in response to NATO. While much of the Iranian military uses Iranian-manufactured weapons and domestic hardware, Iran still purchases some weapons systems from Russia. In turn, Iran has helped Russia with its drone technology and other military technology.
Russia-China collaboration took off in 2014 after the forcible annexation of Crimea and the ensuing war in eastern Ukraine and has since grown into a variety of domains. In response to the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia, the European Union, United States have introduced various trade sanctions against Russia which have been extended and further strengthened. The current official Western view is that sanctions are a way to punish Russia for violating the rules of the international order and to thereby correct its behavior in the future. The Russians believe the sanctions are designed to weaken Russia and reduce its ability to defend itself. “Sanctions haven’t broken the country’s macroeconomic stability,” said Alexandre Abramov, a finance specialist at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics. “But sanctions are cutting off the path to development. In terms of accelerating growth rates, enacting effective structural reforms — sanctions are sapping the country of these possibilities.”
The current changes in the global innovation landscape and geopolitical environment have created an important strategic opportunity for China and Russia to counter American military and technological dominance. “Russia and China have established in recent years a relationship that is more than a simple strategic partnership, which will be further promoted, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at his annual year-end press conference. China will continue to strengthen military to military relations with Russia to address new security challenges in the world, said Air Force General Xu Qiliang, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission. China and Russia also will jointly protect the security interests of both countries and maintain regional strategic balance, Xu added. We discussed the critical dependence of the economy, and, in general, the political, economic, military and defense administration of the country, on the external impact on the information environment,” he noted.
The relations between Pakistan and China have been described by Pakistan’s ambassador to China as higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, stronger than steel, dearer than eyesight, sweeter than honey, and so on. China has also stepped in to expand its sphere of influence. It currently is involved in a major mutually beneficial project to build a network of roads and other infrastructure from its territory to Pakistan’s Gwadar port in order to provide a shorter route to the Persian Gulf.
Pakistan and China signed an agreement to boost the bilateral defense cooperation and capacity building of the Pakistan Army in August 2019. The agreement was signed during Vice Chairman Central Military Commission (CMC) General Xu Qiliang’s visit to Pakistan’s army headquarters with a high-level delegation.
China has also designated many military projects as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Since the beginning of the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, Pakistan has been the program’s flagship site, with some $62 billion in projects planned in the so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. According to the undisclosed proposal drawn up by the Pakistani Air Force and Chinese officials, a special economic zone under CPEC would be created in Pakistan to produce a new generation of fighter jets. For the first time, navigation systems, radar systems and onboard weapons would be built jointly by the countries at factories in Pakistan.
Russia, too, has been making diplomatic overtures and recently participated in joint naval exercises off Pakistan. Military analysts predict that China could use Gwadar to expand the naval footprint of its attack submarines, after agreeing in 2015 to sell eight submarines to Pakistan in a deal worth up to $6 billion. China could use the equipment it sells to the South Asian country to refuel its own submarines, extending its navy’s global reach. “If the US does not consider our legitimate concerns and just toes India’s line, then we will certainly move closer to China and Russia,” the official said, referring to Pakistan’s first “contingency plan.
Recently, China and Iran have announced the signing of the strategic cooperation agreement. China and Iran have gradually improved their bilateral relations with Iran emerging as a leading oil supplier for China since the 1990s and China emerging as the top trading partner of Iran since the 2000s. The bilateral relations were further strengthened through the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015 wherein China, along with Russia, played a crucial role in the finalization of the deal. In January 2016, during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Tehran, China and Iran issued a joint statement expressing the intention to upgrade the bilateral relations to a “comprehensive strategic partnership”.
China-Iran relations are based on economic cooperation and strategic balancing. For Beijing, Iran is a credible partner in the Gulf and West Asia region, especially for its energy security. Further, Iran is seen as a potential destination for Chinese investments in developmental projects. On the other hand, Tehran sees relations with China, along with its ties with Russia, as signs of its continued engagement with global powers defying the United States (US) and European proclivity to isolate Iran. Iran looks at China (and Russia) as a counterweight against the US vis-à-vis its nuclear program and regional policies. Both have been supportive of Iran and its commitments to nuclear non-proliferation as part of the JCPOA.
Russia plans to hold joint naval drills with Iran and China in the Indian Ocean in Feb 2021 , the RIA news agency cited Moscow’s ambassador to Tehran. The three countries held similar naval drills in the Indian Ocean in December 2019. “The next multilateral naval exercises will take place in the northern part of the Indian Ocean in mid-February 2021,” Levan Dzhagaryan, the ambassador, told RIA in an interview. The drills would rehearse search and rescue operations and ensuring the safety of shipping, he said.
China and Russia are bringing Iran and Pakistan further into their fold in a bid to elevate a regionwide strategy toward confronting the still-simmering crisis in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is looking for international recognition for its rule. In sep 2021, Officials from China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan met for their first quadrilateral summit on the sidelines of the upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization heads of state summit to be held in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe.
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