The new Australia-UK-US security alliance, AUKUS, has taken some of the sheen away from the first in-person Quad summit coming up on September 24. But the overheated geopolitics in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific would ensure an agenda bristling with urgency. Particularly when China’s ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’ has a near-predatory edge: from the Senkaku islands, to Himalayan borderlands, to the blue waters of South China Sea. Giving everyone in the broad vicinity—Japan, Australia, India, Vietnam, Taiwan—more than just a headache. The last two are not part of the Quad, which is determined to counter China in the Indo-Pacific. Other issues—like Covid vaccination and climate change—too may get taken up when Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the Quad summit.
India will also have to figure out what AUKUS means for it, especially the nuclear-armed submarines delivered to Australia. New Delhi has been eyeing those nuke warheads for quite some time now, for the same reason—to fob off China on the seas. New Delhi surely has its hands full—maritime or mainland. The interesting twist with the one urgent concern that the US and India share—China’s rising clout in the region—is that Afghanistan now comes into that matrix. Now that the grave implications of Beijing playing footsie with the Taliban in tandem with Pakistan must be clearer to the Biden administration, how does it see India’s role?
That apart, PM Modi would also have to sort out the contretemps over CAATSA—Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. It’s awaiting the delivery of the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system from Russia by year-end. If Washington does not give India a special waiver, the situation may get complicated. If Washington’s primary intention is to contain China, it’s unlikely to commit the harakiri of imposing sanctions on India, and put a strategic partner in a quandary.