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Asian NATO: India woos Australia to Malabar exercise, and lures Taiwan too

Virendra Pandit 

New Delhi: That the four major democracies in the Indian-Pacific Region are constructively moving to set up an ‘Asian NATO’ against the common threat from China began to take shape on Tuesday with Melbourne accepting India’s invite to a naval exercise amid reports that New Delhi may soon formally start trade deals with Taiwan.

Recently, Australia has emerged as the biggest eyesore to China for a variety of reasons, including the Covid-19 pandemic.

With seven rounds of higher-level military talks on Ladakh collapsing since May, when China began unsuccessful aggression, India has finally decided to speak to Beijing in its own language. History tells us that China has never been bothered with being dubbed as a back-stabber. Beijing does not respect any deals, ethics, high-sounding or moralizing sermons, agreed principles, or human rights.

What Beijing bows to, however, is a naked show of power when the coward Dragon tucks its tail firmly between the legs.

That is why New Delhi has now ignored China’s ‘response’, and invited Melbourne to join a naval exercise to be held in November in the Malabar coastal region. China is unlikely to change its behavior.

The four-nation Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, may, therefore, upgraded the group into a formal security alliance, or ‘Asian NATO’. Besides Australia, the other three members of the emerging alliance are the USA, India, and Japan.

With its stubborn attitude, financial arrogance and arm-twisting, and military-induced belligerence against not only the 18 nations it shares borders with but also with those who are indebted to it, Beijing has, ironically, given teeth to Quad, which has recently invited more countries to join the group. Alarmed, the Quad members have decided to give China some credible pushback, lest an emboldened Beijing continued to bully them.

As China shares a vulnerable coastline with many nations, naval coordination between the Quad members is expected to create a deterrence against Chinese war-mongering.

Another important step India took on Tuesday,  reports said, was that New Delhi could soon hold formal talks with Taiwan for trade deals, which is expected to irk China no end.

Despite pleas from Taipei, New Delhi has for long avoided going ahead on this count, if only to keep China at bay. But Beijing’s recent aggression in Ladakh has forced India to ignore its direct and indirect threats and move ahead to protect national interests with Taiwanese deals.

Since India does not formally recognize Taiwan, the two governments keep unofficial diplomatic missions they call “representative offices.”

For decades, India has tried to improve bilateral relations with China and settle the border issues. But Beijing misconstrued it as India’s weakness and tried to cash in on its perceived vulnerability by sending troops in  Ladakh this year.

This changed New Delhi’s China policy. ‘If a selfish and self-centered China  ignores India’s interests, well, why should New Delhi care for Beijing’s threats.’ This thinking now dominates in India’s corridors of power and has tilted New Delhi towards the Quad and Taiwan.

With India inviting investments in electronics and technology, Taiwan can be a good choice for a trade deal. Recently, India approved three Taiwanese firms—Foxconn Technology Group, Wistron Corporation, and Pegatron Corporation. If the trade deals go through, India expects to attract investments worth over USD 140 billion (Rs. 10 trillion) for smartphone production by 2025.