“No country should pursue its so-called absolute security at the expense of other countries’ security,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng said in a barely-veiled attack on the Quad, which includes India, Australia, Japan, and the United States. He drew a link between the situation in Ukraine, which he claims is the product of “NATO’s eastward expansion plan,” and the various provocations Beijing perceives in the Indo-Pacific. The analogy isn’t valid. After all, it is China that has asserted itself in the area and abroad, frequently at the “cost of the security of other countries.” Since the conclusion of WWII, US forces and allies have been present in the region, and unlike NATO, the Quad is not a military alliance. Le may be taken seriously in Delhi as a former ambassador to India and rising star in China’s foreign policy apparatus. However, it is vital to emphasize that, notwithstanding recent geopolitical developments, India’s foreign policy aims and ties with Quad members remain unchanged.
The Quad is a response to China’s growing ambitions, which have included capturing islands and attempting to dominate water lanes in the Indo-Pacific, as well as operations along India’s Line of Actual Control. On the other hand, China and Russia announced a “no-limits” relationship on February 4th, thus forming an alliance in which they would support each other’s ambitions in Ukraine and Taiwan. In other words, China may be doing exactly what it accuses the West and Indo-Pacific countries of doing. Le’s attack on the Quad comes after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with the prime leaders of Japan and Australia at the summit level this week. The amount of bilateral economic cooperation and strategic convergence between the two nations has only increased: Japan has committed to investments totaling $4.2 billion over the next five years, and Australia is also expected to announce new projects and investments in India. Following news of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s offer to visit India, both visits took place.
New Delhi must engage in talks with Beijing while also looking out for its interests, as it has done in the past. It’s also evident that the Quad continues to view China as the key threat. Both the Japanese and Australian prime leaders are said to have discussed the situation in Ukraine with Prime Minister Modi, but neither has demanded that India follow their lead. New Delhi has also stated that China’s belligerence, whether on its borders or in the Indo-Pacific, is impeding a thaw in relations. China’s grandstanding will not change that reality.