Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

Four-power meeting drew Chinese démarche

Last month, India held a quiet meeting with Japan, Australia and the United States to discuss security issues. Each member of this new ‘four power’ initiative denies the aim is to gang up against China. But Beijing is wary of this new alignment.

14 June 2007
The Hindu

Four-power meeting drew Chinese démarche
U.S., Japan keen to rope in India in quadrilateral security cooperation

Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi: Days before the first-ever official-level security consultation between the United States, India, Japan and Australia last month, China issued démarches to each of the participants seeking to know the purpose behind their meeting.

A démarche is a formal diplomatic communication made with the purpose of, inter alia, eliciting information from another State and reflects the seriousness of the issue at stake.

Unlike India, Japan and Australia are close military allies of the U.S. and trilateral security cooperation between Washington, Tokyo and Canberra has been going on for some time. New Delhi — which had been resisting the idea of a quadrilateral security meeting for more than a year because of its ‘encirclement of China’ connotations — finally committed itself to a dialogue with Japan “and other like-minded countries in the Asia-Pacific region on themes of mutual interest” during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Tokyo last December.

Concrete plans for this new quadrilateral dialogue process were firmed up after the visit to Delhi last month of Japan’s Vice-Foreign Minister, Shotaro Yachi. The first “exploratory meeting” at the level of senior officials took place on the sidelines of the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) security policy meeting in Manila on May 24-25. The U.S. was represented by Christopher Hill, Washington’s point man for the Six-Party talks on Korea, India by Additional Secretary K.C. Singh from the MEA, Japan by Chikao Kawai, deputy Vice Minister for foreign policy, and Australia by Jennifer Rawson from its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Largely mindful of China’s concerns, however, the four countries decided to meet without any formal agenda and to not publicise the meeting itself or the subjects discussed. “In the run up, the Chinese had démarched all four of us to find out what was going on, and I suppose we were conscious of not trying to create the impression of a gang-up against them”, a senior official told The Hindu.

India, said the official, “certainly does not wish to send such a signal to China and I think at this time, none of the others wants to either”. On May 27, Ms. Rawson told an Australian parliamentary panel that the four countries were not seeking to create a new security alliance and were only “looking at issues of common interest”.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso has been pushing the idea of bringing New Delhi into the existing trilateral security process with Australia and the U.S. since his visit to Delhi in January 2006. For Japan, India is a key part of the ‘Arc of Prosperity and Freedom’ it is trying to build around the “outer rim of the Eurasian continent”. In practice, this ‘Arc’ — which bears no resemblance to the actual geometrical shape — skirts almost entirely along the borders of China and Russia.

India as ‘common strategic objective’

On its part, the U.S. has been quick to realize the value of a quadrilateral framework for dealing with strategic developments in Asia. In particular, the Bush administration has sought to build a patchwork of military and strategic partnerships around China with a view to “encouraging” Beijing to play the role of a “responsible stakeholder” in Asia.

Since 2005, the U.S. has officially begun to speak of India as part of this network of “values-based relationships” surrounding China. And this year’s U.S-Japan Security Consultative Committee joint statement made a direct reference to New Delhi, the first time this has happened at that forum.

The high-level statement — issued on May 1 by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Defence Minister Fumio Kyuma — sets out as a “common strategic objective” the task of “continuing to build upon partnerships with India to advance areas of common interests and increase cooperation, recognizing that India’s continued growth is inextricably tied to the prosperity, freedom, and security of the region.”

By meeting on the sidelines of the ARF, Indian officials hope the message went out that the new ‘quadrilateral’ sees itself as essentially an adjunct to Asean. “Just as the ARF itself is Asean-plus, the Quad is an ARF-plus arrangement. For example, anything we do on the maritime security front, or humanitarian front like tsunami relief, would have to involve the Asean countries”, an official said.

Asked what the logic of creating a ‘mini-ARF’ was, the official said that there were many overlapping structures in Asia and this did not mean they were competing with each other. “India, for example, is not part of APEC and the U.S., Japan and Australia are not part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)”, he said.

Given the explicit military dimension to the cooperation envisaged, however, it is unlikely that others in Asia — least of all China — will see the ‘Quad’ as just another “overlapping structure”.

The Indian, Japanese and Australian Navies worked together under U.S. “leadership” after the 2004 tsunami and in April this year, India, Japan and the U.S. staged trilateral naval exercises off Japan’s eastern coast.

Predictably, the latest “humanitarian” exercises did not go down well in Beijing. In a commentary on April 21, People’s Daily wrote: “It is absolutely not new for Japan and the U.S. to sit down and plot conspiracies together but it is rather intriguing to get India involved”. Unconvinced by the Indian Navy’s plans to have joint exercises with China and Russia, the official Chinese newspaper saw the trilateral exercises as “a signal for a new balance of force in the Asia region”. The U.S., it said, was “an old-brand power” but is “striving to win the support of Japan and India in a bid to prevent China and Russia from joining forces”.

Though no date has been fixed for the next quadrilateral meeting, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to try and upgrade the process to the ministerial level when he visits New Delhi later this year. At that point, say officials, India will have to carefully evaluate the inevitable signals any enhancement of security cooperation between the ‘four powers’ will likely send to China and the rest of Asia.

18 comments on “Four-power meeting drew Chinese démarche

  1. Pingback: The Return of the Quad – Ratio

  2. Anonymous
    June 29, 2007

    Nehru’s destroyed the country as much as possible.Nehru and his creation: IITs/IIMs -Well, these “””elite Indian””” institutes donot even qualify as the world’s top 50 institutes. For examples, if the IIMs are as good as they are believed to be, then this blog’s owner “Sidd” would not have gone to LSE. So are other marxists like Jayati Ghose, Prabhat Patnaik, Prakash Karat.Along with these institutes, he also built the useless and inefficient white elephants all over the country at the expense of the tax payers.

  3. Anonymous
    June 29, 2007

    D:Biotechnology and Foreign Policy!International relations/politics is not synonymous to symbiotic coexistence. Even if other nations try to coexist with one another, Chinese would not like to do it as they tend to think that they are far ahead of others, even though the facts prove otherwise.As about Nehru, the less said the better. This is the man, which instilled impotency into the minds of Indian public policy/foreign policy makers. He was willing to go to any extent to protect his image as an anti-imperialist until he got thrashed by the Chinese in the 1962 war.You donot need to be a historian to know the basic Indian history. My ten year old niece knows the border conflict. Also she knows something about biotechnology 🙂

  4. Anonymous
    June 29, 2007
  5. Roo Hu
    June 29, 2007

    <>China warns Canberra on security pact<>Brendan Nicholson<>The Age<>, June 15, 2007< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Read<>ANGRY Chinese authorities have issued formal diplomatic protests to Australia, the US, Japan and India because they feared the four countries were ganging up on them in a security alliance.The protests came after the Chinese discovered that officials from the four countries were planning a joint meeting.The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said last night that the meeting of officials went ahead last month, but a spokeswoman insisted there was no plan for a security alliance.And the spokeswoman said the department had no comment to make about the demarche notes — a formal diplomatic protest — reportedly sent to the four nations.But a senior Indian official told <>The Hindu<> newspaper that in the run-up to the meeting, China sent demarches to each country to find out what was going on.“We were conscious of thus not trying to create the impression of a gang-up against them,” the official said.He said India did not want to send such a signal to China and nor did the other three countries.The idea of quadrilateral alignment was floated by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe early this year and endorsed by US Vice-President Dick Cheney during his visit to Sydney.Today’s meeting between the Dalai Lama and Prime Minister John Howard could increase tensions with China, which earlier this week publicly opposed the meeting.The Dalai Lama stressed this week that Australia should maintain good relations with China. But he also said Australia should be a “true friend” to China by standing up to it on subjects such as human rights, democracy, press freedoms and the rule of law. “Remain firm, tell them, not negatively, but friendly.”Hugh White, a visiting fellow at the Lowy Institute and professor of strategic studies at the ANU, said China was clearly worried about developments and he would not be surprised if Beijing took the serious step of sending the demarche.And he said he could see why the meeting upset the Chinese.“This is not some mere officials business of low-level co-ordination.”What the Indian official described as the first “exploratory meeting” took place on the sidelines during the Association of South-East Asian Nations regional forum in Manila in May.At that time, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer went into overdrive in his public reassurances to Beijing that China was not under threat.Australia was represented by Jennifer Rawson, the first assistant secretary in DFAT’s international security division.Ms Rawson was asked about the talks in a recent Senate estimates committee hearing and explained that a “trilateral strategic dialogue” involving Japan, Australia and the US had been under way for several years.She said the talks were not motivated by security considerations and would cover, for instance, disaster relief.The Indian official said the officials were mindful of China’s concerns, and met without a formal agenda and decided not to publicise the event widely.Professor White said the sending of diplomatic notes by China to the four countries would demonstrate how concerned it was about the way the strategic architecture of the region had changed in recent months.“They are worried about all of them but I think what irritates them is that the Australian policy has changed. The Japanese and the Americans have, for some time, been developing the view that they’d like to have a closer relationship to, in a sense, hold China out at arm’s length.“They see this as a pattern in which the US and Japan have been trying to consolidate an alliance of democracies in Asia, which they feel is directed against them.”A spokesman for Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said last night that the minister’s recollection was that China was relaxed about the meeting.

  6. Roo Hu
    June 29, 2007

    <>AUSTRALIA: No ASIAN alliance aimed at China<>Radio Australia19/06/2007 4:36:35 PMAustralia is denying any ambition to create a four-way alliance linking India with the United States, Japan and Australia. Australian ministers say Canberra wants to build bilateral security relations with India, but does not want to bring India into the existing trilateral security structure with the US and Japan. China is becoming increasingly vocal about what it sees as a so-called “alliance of democracies” by the four countries, aimed at containing China. < HREF="" REL="nofollow">Listen<>Presenter/Interviewer: Graeme Dobell, Radio Australia’s Foreign Affairs editor Speakers: Australia’s Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer; President of China’s Institute of International Studies, Ambassador Ma Zhengang; Australia’s Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson DOBELL: China is unsettled enough by the new trilateral security dialogue, linking Australia, Japan and the United States. But Beijing is get positively agitated by the idea that it could be transformed from three to four, with India joining up. When visiting China in April, Australia’s Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, denied any ambition for an Asian version of the NATO alliance.DOWNER: There isn’t any vision here of building some sort of security arrangement, I don’t think that’s what’s been talked about, but whether there can be some sort of relationship or some sort of a meeting from time to time, well that’s a work in progress. I don’t think India for example as one of the joint founders of the Non-Aligned Movement with Indonesia, would see itself as becoming part of some kind of Asian NATO, and I don’t think there is any vision here of establishing a kind of Asian NATO.DOBELL: The other members of the trilateral security dialogue are keener, and it’s starting to happen. At the end of May, officials from Australia, Japan, the US and India met for their first exploratory talks. The meeting took place on the sidelines of a senior officials meeting of the Asia Pacific security dialogue, the ASEAN Regional Forum, taking place in Manila.Ahead of that first four-nation discussion, China served a diplomatic demarche on the four countries – asking the purpose of the meeting.China says the US is seeking to create a so-called alliance of democracies in Asia, to contain China. The President of China’s Institute of International Studies, Ambassador Ma Zhengang, says the US attempt to build an an alliance of democracies is divisive and dangerous.AMBASSADOR MA: Who decides? The United States decides that you are democratic and you are not. So this is I think a deliberate division for the country for the first point; second, I know that some countries like the United States try to pull Japan, Australia or India or some country, it wants to form a kind of alliance. I think in that case what about China? What about the rest of the countries? Do you think there should be opposition from each other? Would that be beneficial to the building of real peace and security in this area? So I suggest that this idea I personally think is dangerous.DOBELL: Australia’s Foreign Affairs Department says the meeting of officials from Australia, Japan, the United States and India was quote, “motivated by the natural partnership between countries sharing fundamental values and growing cooperation”.Further, according to Canberra, it was not driven by security considerations…. nor by considerations of other countries, and quote “there is no intention to enter into a quadrilateral security alliance.”Australia’s Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, repeats the line that discussions with India are not aimed at creation a four-way alliance. And Dr Nelson says he’ll offer that assurance to China when he visits Beijing next month. NELSON: What we’ve got is a trilateral dialogue. We have an alliance with the United States, Japan has an alliance with the United States. Japan and Australia are not only major trading partners, we’re also people that have fundamental commitments, certainly since the end of World War Two to basic democratic principles. So we have agreed to a trilateral dialogue with Japan and of course the United States. What’s been proposed and which we’re happy to do is to essentially have discussions about other issues which may involve at an officials level India for example. But we’re not proposing to nor encouraging the notion of some sort of quadrilateral dialogue, and if people are presenting it in those terms they shouldn’t. And the other thing of course when I do go to Beijing I will be emphasising again that our trilateral dialogue with the United States and Japan is basically about the common interest that we have not only in defence and security but a whole range of trade, economic and other issues. It’s not solely some sort of defence and security thing and should not be seen in any way as undermining the very good relationship that we enjoy with China, which we have, we place very high regard and emphasis upon.DOBELL: China is jumping at ghosts a little, worrying about the creation of a new alliance of democracies which would bring India in as well?NELSON: Well I’m certainly not going to agree to keep to some particular concern to China about what Australia might otherwise be doing. We have very strong bilateral relations with many of the countries within our region. Australia also supports and participates in multilateral dialogue throughout the region, and we also have for example devolving trilateral dialogue with Japan and the United States. But I don’t think that China is reading into it the things that are imputed to it. But they’re things that I will discuss with my Chinese counterparts, I know Minister Downer will do precisely the same.

  7. Anonymous
    June 29, 2007

    The CIA report also says: “Had it not been Nehru, but rather a more military-minded man, a priority program to prepare India eventually to fight would have been put in place. It also points out that Mao Zedong had placed US as Beijing’s “major world enemy, India was second on the list”, ie the “main target in Souteast Asia”.

  8. Anonymous
    June 29, 2007

    In three chapters dealing with the 1962 border war that India lost, CIA analysts suggested that the Chinese government under Premier Chou En Lai deceived India by giving false assurances to Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru that the border issue was a petty problem which could be resolved by lower-level officials, the CNN-IBN network reported. The boundary dispute, which involved large areas along their 4,000-kilometre border, later proved to be the main reason behind the bitter war between the neighbours. The CIA documents paint Nehru as a naïve and romantic statesman who trusted the Chinese. They claim the Indian leader kept disagreements on the border issue out of the public domain to maintain his relationship with Chou. ‘The Chinese diplomatic effort was a five-year masterpiece of guile, executed – and probably planned in a large part – by Chou En Lai,’ the Times of India daily quoted the CIA analysis as saying. ‘Chou played on Nehru’s Asian, anti-imperialist mental attitude, his proclivity to temporize and his sincere desire for an amicable India-China relationship,’ the analysis added.

  9. Anonymous
    June 29, 2007

    Nehru did a lot of good for India but he made some real big blunders.1. Hoping for a real good partner relationship with China. I believe it is impossible then and even now.2. Never really doing anything to control the population growth.3. Projecting Indira Gandhi to mess up India for 20 years.Frankly no country can be trusted. It is better for India to have relationships based on pure self-interests.

  10. Anonymous
    June 28, 2007

    Ouch! 🙂Firstly, my apologies for not having used the right modal auxiliaries. should have used ‘may’ and ‘can’ in place of the two ‘will’s! I admit I was a li’il carried away after reading the article. Secondly, I dont understand why 1962 or “shameless Nehru” – as some of you prefer to call him- should be brought into the picture. Today’s India is not what it was in 1962. Nor is the world the same today, in the post-Soviet era. Thirdly, it was never stated that India should ally itself with Russia or the Chinese regime. Nor was their reliability called into question. A simple opinion that India should be wary of alienating two major markets and close neighbours to satisfy the US didn’t seem such a smart move was all that was stated. But who knows? I might be wrong. I sure do not have a degree from any of the prestigious universities that were mentioned nor did I know one needed the same to state an opinion. 🙂As a biotechnologist, I have never made contemporary history my pet peeve either. However, I have seen competing organisms growing symbiotically. Was hoping for the same here, thats all.Reg,DPS: as an aside, that “”shameless Nehru”” gave India its big brands- IITs, IIMs. He had his faults- agreed, but history wont deny him his place in propeling Indias growth post-independence. (Again, a personal opinion! :))

  11. Anonymous
    June 28, 2007

    TO D:Ha Ha Ha. Russians and reliability. you must be joking. Ask the Belarus President Lukashenko and he will tell you how realiable the Russians are.Indians are always used to riding two horses though unsucessfully. During the 1962 China war, even when the shameless Nehru was begging for the American support to fight against the Chinese, he requested the Kennedy administration not to publicise his request or the delivery of the arms supplies to India. He was so consicious of his socialist credentials, he was even willing to mortage India’s national security for his own pride.The current regime supported by the supporters of Tiannanmen killers (CPM) would try not to offend the Chinese regime to keep it power intact in Delhi. It would try everything to ride two horses.By the way, you seem to have a ‘very very good understanding’ of contemporary history. Did you go to LSE from JNU? Were you taught contemporary history by Bipin Chandra?

  12. Anonymous
    June 28, 2007

    TO D:You Said: “…everyone knows that the US is not one of the most reliable allies that one could ask for..”.That is the same for Russia as well. During the 1962 war with China, the Americans and the West supported us, despite their preoccupation with the Cuban missile crisis. Even the shameless Nehru asked for the shipment of armaments from the Kennedy administration. At the same time, the Russians refused to support us saying that they cannot support India against the Chinese communists much to the delight of anti-national Indian communists. If you donot know the history, donot come here with your limited understanding of history.India has nothing to pacify the shoe- and toy-making Chinese. We have nothing in common. We have only thing to be competitive against.

  13. Anonymous
    June 27, 2007

    The new Quad encircles not one but two of America’s new threats- Putin’s Russia and a resurgent China. India’s decision can cause the two powers to come closer and increase their strategic and military ties. This will not bode well for us and will cause a polarisation in the sub-continent. India’s acts of appeasement by means of holding trilateral military exercises with Russia and China wont work either. Remember the old saying about riding two horses at the same time? We must play our cards carefully now. For, at the end of the day, everyone knows that the US is not one of the most reliable allies that one could ask for.Reg,D

  14. Anonymous
    June 21, 2007

    What a shame, in “”””””LSE”””””” educated Sidd’s blog, rajamohan gets cited.

  15. Anonymous
    June 20, 2007

    In his recent article, defence analyst Rajamohan has mentioned that China, sofar, has enjoyed an easy ride vis a vis India’s cautious and not too assertive approach towards China, and has got used to taking India’s restraint for granted. Its recent claim of entire Arunachal Pradesh is just one example. However the just concluded visit of India by a prominent politician from Taiwan is an indicator of thing to come. China undoubtedly is India’s enemy number one, as was correctly mentioned by George Fernandes, the ex defence minister. China has no problem living with any strategic aligngnment between the US, Japan and Australia. But its problem starts when India comes into the equation, and it is quite blatant about its discomfort with India getting its due importance in the international arena ! India seems to be playing its cards prudently against China, and the price for any mistake is likely to be quite heavy !!Jai Hind !

  16. Anonymous
    June 18, 2007

    What is India getting from China? If China stops selling its good do we care? In fact we are helping China by opening up our economy. China mainly imports Iron ore from India, so why all the fuss about relations with China. For all practical purposes China’s concerns are non-issues for us.

  17. Anonymous
    June 18, 2007

    Frankly why do we care what China wants? Let the border dispute continue. Even US and Canada have border disputes. China is worth nothing to India. China is a country of “cheap labor” where as India is a country of “cheap brain power”. Once we charge correctly for our “brain power” then India can develop far faster than China. We don’t need Chinese “cheap labor” for our development.

  18. Anonymous
    June 15, 2007

    This is really good news. Atlast India is waking up to Chinese threat. Frankly there is no use in India-China relationship. Both are compititors and we can do nothing about it.

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This entry was posted on June 14, 2007 by in Asian architecture, China, Indian Foreign Policy, Japan.



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