Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:58 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:58 | SYDNEY

India need not worry too much about our China 'tilt'


Rory Medcalf


6 February 2008 15:37

‘The Australian decision to tilt openly towards Beijing will have inevitable consequences in New Delhi,’ warn the paranoid and nameless sources of this article in today’s Times of India. They were referring to Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s comments this week that Australia ‘would not be proposing’ a repeat of last-year's quadrilateral dialogue among the US, Japan, Australia and India. And if Indian concern isn’t enough, it seems the Japanese are worried too, as this (again anonymously sourced) report in The Age would have it.

Any suggestion that Mr Smith’s carefully-worded remarks somehow mean that Australia is suddenly and openly tilting towards China (and presumably away from the US and its web of allies and partners) is wrong . After all, no credible commentator is suggesting that the Indian Prime Minister’s recent meeting of minds with his Chinese counterpart was the beginning of the end of the US-India strategic partnership.

A vast mythology has built up around the quadrilateral dialogue, which literally amounted to four officials having a conversation last May in the margins of an ASEAN Regional Forum session, a place where lots of other caucuses regularly get together without any fuss.

The quad’s critics, in Beijing and elsewhere, have worried that it is an Asian NATO in the making, an alliance for the dangerous purpose of containing a rising China. Some of its more gung-ho supporters, meanwhile, have fretted that the apparent abandonment of this new forum (given the resignation of its champion, Shinzo Abe) signifies a failure of efforts to balance China. Both of these assessments grossly overstate and oversimplify the reality, as I will explain in an article to appear in The Diplomat magazine later this month.