China is agitated about Quad’s Future Role
STORIES, ANALYSES, EXPERT VIEWS
In May the Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh, Li Jiming, warned Dhaka that there will be “substantial damage” in bilateral ties between China and Bangladesh if the latter joins the Quad. It was an extraordinary statement considering China has tried to cultivate Bangladesh assiduously over several years.
In response, Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen promptly and publicly challenged the Chinese envoy’s statement, underlining categorically that Dhaka pursues an independent foreign policy. “It’s very regrettable… We are an independent and sovereign state. We decide our foreign policy,” he said. “They [the Chinese] can say what they want…We will listen to what they say. But we will decide what is good for us.”
Impact of China’s warning on S Asia and Indo-Pacific
That China’s remarks would reverberate far beyond South Asia, writes Harsh V. Pant (Director, Studies at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi and Professor of International Relations, King's College London) “was expected and perhaps intended by Beijing itself….
“This episode captures the emerging fault lines in South Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific in ways that are both revealing and challenging. As the tectonic plates in the Indo-Pacific shift, major players are making their moves and testing the waters. For all its attempts to play down the relevance of the Quad, Beijing realises that the grouping, with all its weaknesses, is emerging as a reality and there is little it can do to prevent that. It tried but failed. And so, it is agitated about Quad’s future role and its potential success in offering the regional states an alternative to its own strong-arm tactics.
“The Quad member states are busy in figuring out a cohesive agenda amongst themselves and there are no plans for an expansion. There is a desire to work with like-minded nations but that can only happen if the four members of the Quad can build a credible platform first. No one is sending out invitations to join Quad and no one has shown an interest. But Beijing wants to ensure that after failing in its initial attempt to prevent the Quad from gaining any traction, its message is well understood by other states who may harbour any desire of working closely with the Quad members to uphold a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. With its message to Dhaka, Beijing was laying down a marker that nations should desist from engaging with the Quad…….
“As the Quad gains more momentum and the churn in the waters of the Indo-Pacific leads to new countervailing coalitions against China, Beijing’s belligerence can only be expected to grow…..” Beijing is likely to “demand clear-cut foreign policy choices from its regional interlocutors, as its outburst at Bangladesh underscores. But as Dhaka’s robust response makes it clear, states are more likely to push back than become subservient to Chinese largesse.”