Biden plans Japan visit to coordinate Indo-Pacific, but ‘India’s reluctance to sway on Ukraine weakens QUAD’

By Zhang Han and Xu Keyue (Global Times) 08:21, April 13, 2022

US President Joe Biden is expected to visit Japan for the QUAD summit in late May, a move which experts see as a further attempt to showcase US leadership in the Indo-Pacific region and as another try with Japan and Australia to influence India to sway its stance on Ukraine crisis.

Hyping the China threat during the QUAD summit would be an effective tactic to canvass India, who the US has failed to nudge for a stronger stance against Russia. But India's reluctance to coordinate on the issue would render the QUAD mechanism weaker and substantial results are unlikely to be achieved from the meeting, experts predicted.

Biden announced a plan to visit Japan for a QUAD summit in late May, which also involves leaders of India and Australia, during Biden's virtual meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

Biden said he is looking forward to seeing Modi in Japan on "about the 24th of May," during their meeting that preceded a bilateral 2+2 dialogue of defense and foreign ministers of the two countries.

If Biden visits Japan, that will be Biden's first trip outside Europe since taking office against the backdrop of so-called sweeping Western support for US-led sanctions on Russia, which received a cold response from developing countries in Asia, with India as a notable representative.

At the time when some European countries are upset with the US stirring up trouble at their cost, the US is eager to demonstrate its leadership and capabilities in other regions, such as for the QUAD, Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Li Haidong, a professor from the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, said the US, via QUAD, is trying to form economic and security regional frameworks that are underpinned by an alliance architecture and led by the US with Japan's support. The US hopes to use such frameworks to compete with and marginalize China in politics, economy and other fields.

The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which US officials have talked about on multiple occasions, may come into a more mature format during Biden's Japan visit, analysts said.

Globally, the US eyes a consistent QUAD stance on the Ukraine crisis and pushes NATO's shift to the Asia-Pacific and a strategic coordination of the two US-led mechanisms, Li told the Global Times.

Da Zhigang, director of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, believes Biden will make another try together with leaders of Japan and Australia to take a coordinated stance on the Ukraine crisis to make the QUAD mechanism more united.

Biden will be welcome by Tokyo as Japan wants to extend the US-Japan security pact to economic fields and expand the bilateral framework, Da said. "Japan hopes, via the possible summit, to enhance its influence and image at the regional and global levels," Da said.

But to the US' disappointment, it failed to pull QUAD closer especially on the Ukraine issue. Observers cited India's interests in the region and its strategic autonomy as reasons why New Delhi won't be a US pawn as Washington hopes. The differences of QUAD members determined the mechanism cannot become a solid "alliance" and can hardly yield substantial results.

After the Biden-Modi talks, The Times of India reported that Washington was unable to persuade New Delhi to follow the US-NATO line on Russia. With no perceptible change in their differences on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, both sides pressed ahead with other areas of cooperation.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited India in Marchcarrying the mission of a lobbyist to push for QUAD coordination on the Ukraine crisis, but failed to make India change its position.

But India thinks different for the QUAD, as it wants to maintain strategic autonomy and will not willingly play the role the US arranges for it, in addition to its close ties with Russia.

Lü pointed out the differences of QUAD members were so huge that the US "can do little" to sway India on the issue the US cares about the most, the Ukraine crisis. If a bloc cannot agree on key issues, it can hardly be a real, consolidated alliance, the expert said.

Hyping the China threat is another tactic the US believes is most effective to convince India to join the US chariot, according to Lü.

Observers noted an interesting phenomenon that Indian media are more cautious in their coverage of China-India relations recently while some American news outlets started to report the border clashes between the two countries. Outlets including the Washington Post are publishing "Chinese hackers target Indian power grid."

New Delhi has made clear that it will engage with all countries without taking sides. India may make use of border disputes with China for its own interests, but will not be misled by the US and blindly drive China-India ties into a corner for US strategic goals, experts said.

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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