NATO’s growing shadow over the Asia-Pacific


    In Context

    • The Asia-Pacific is turning out to be a major theatre of big-power rivalry.

    China’s statement on “NATO-like” alliances

    • China’s Defence Minister recently at the Shangri-La Dialogue stated that, “Forging “NATO-like” alliances would plunge the region into a “whirlpool of disputes and conflicts”.
      • According to him, “Today’s Asia-Pacific needs open and inclusive cooperation, not buddying up into small cliques,”.
    • China was targeting the Australia, UK, and US (AUKUS) security pact as well as the Quad, of which India is a member along with Australia, Japan and the US. 

    About NATO

    • North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a military alliance made up of the United States, Canada, France, and eight other European countries.
    • It was founded in 1949. 
    • It currently has 31 members, with 28 from Europe, two from North America, and one from Eurasia
    • The key purpose of NATO’s formation was to create a “collective defence” against any potential German or Soviet Union attack in the aftermath of World War II.
    • Article 5: If a NATO member attacks another member, it is considered ‘an attack on all NATO members, according to Article 5 of NATO.

    About QUAD

    • It is also known as Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD).
      • QUAD is an informal group of India, the US, Japan and Australia.
      • It is a strategic dialogue with the objective to ensure a free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo Pacific.

    About AUKUS

    • AUKUS is a new trilateral security partnership for the Indo-Pacific, between Australia, the UK and the US (AUKUS).
      • AUKUS aims for freedom and openness in the Indo-Pacific region, including the South China Sea.
    • The partnership is signed as a challenge to the regional hegemonic ambitions of China.

    NATO’s expansion in Asia-Pacific region

    • NATO Plus:
      • This statement also comes in the wake of a US House Select Committee recommending the inclusion of India in NATO Plus, a security arrangement that currently includes NATO and five aligned nations—Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan and Israel
    • NATO’s liaison office in Japan:
      • In what is going to be the first of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region (“Indo-Pacific” in American lingo), a NATO liaison office will open in Tokyo next year. 
      • Recently, Britain and Japan signed a new strategic partnership and agreed to “deepen” collaboration between NATO and Tokyo. 
        • During the Shangri-La summit, the British Defence Secretary said having such an office in Japan is “in the interests of NATO”.
    • NATO’s partners in the Asia-Pacific region:
      • In addition, NATO plans to further strengthen collaboration with its four major partners in the Asia-Pacific region—Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
        • The alliance will formulate an Individually Tailored Partnership Program with all four countries—an upgrade to a higher form of partnership.
    • QUAD as a “NATO-like” alliance:
      • One of the recent reports argues that the Quad needs more muscle to live up to its potential and for that, the group should focus on a security agenda, especially maritime security, to serve as a deterrent to China. 
        • The purpose is to make the Quad “capable of providing mutual support in crisis or conflict situations, even if its members are not aligned on policy or directly involved in combined operations.”

    China’s dominance in the region

    • Chinese supremacy:
      • Beijing has territorial disputes with Japan, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. 
      • India is on a permanent border standoff with China, having fought a full-scale war in 1962 and being embroiled in several territorial disputes over the years.
    • Dominance display:
      • Growing Chinese muscularity in the SCS is visible in the following ways:
        • Increased patrolling and live-fire exercising by Chinese naval vessels; 
        • Renaming of SCS features; and 
        • Building of runways, bunkers, and habitation for possible long-term stationing of personnel on the atolls claimed by China.
      • Chinese exploration and drilling vessels compete aggressively with those of other littoral countries in the disputed waters.
    • China’s New Maritime Law for the South China Sea:
      • In a bid to regulate foreign ships, China notified new maritime rules warranting vessels to report their information while passing through what China sees as its “territorial waters”.
        • Operators of submersibles, nuclear vessels, ships carrying radioactive materials and ships carrying bulk oil, chemicals, liquefied gas and other toxic and harmful substances are required to report their detailed information upon their visits to Chinese territorial waters”.

    India’s position

    • India’s refusal for NATO Plus: 
      • According to the Select Committee, including India in NATO Plus “would build upon the US and India’s close partnership to strengthen global security and deter the aggression of the CCP across the Indo-Pacific region.”
        • “Winning the strategic competition with the Chinese Communist Party and ensuring the security of Taiwan demands the United States strengthen ties to our allies and security partners, including India,” says the report. 
      • India as a defence for Taiwan:
        • Interestingly, India is being called up to the defence of Taiwan, with which New Delhi has no formal diplomatic relations. 
        • Nor does Taiwan appear anywhere in India’s defence calculations.
      • Refusal:
        • India has, however, brushed aside the idea, with External Affairs Minister saying that the “NATO template does not apply to India.”
    • India’s “strategic autonomy”:
      • A NATO overreach to the Asia-Pacific will pose a major challenge to New Delhi’s much-touted “strategic autonomy”. 
      • The push to transform Quad into a security alliance focusing on China will also have the same effect.

    Way ahead

    • QUAD’s limited role:
      • Although accused by Beijing of being an anti-China coalition, the Quad has hitherto refrained from deepening cooperation in the security realm
      • It has limited itself to contributing to global health as a provider of vaccines, working on climate change, building infrastructure, and cooperating in space.
    • India’s balancing act:
      • Having moved on from its traditional non-alignment, New Delhi now boasts of “multi-alignment” as its new foreign policy mantra.
        • So far, India has done an impressive job of maintaining its balancing act. 
      • Although, an extended war over Ukraine may lead India and the Asia-Pacific nations to bear the brunt of increasing big-power rivalry in the region.


    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] ‘NATO template does not apply to India.’ Analyse. In a similar context, examine the significance of NATO’s increasing role in the Indo-Pacific Region.