Indo-Pacific Quad could launch grand project to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative

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New Delhi, May 28: Ahead of the proposed in-person summit of the Quad countries—India, Japan, Australia and the United States later his — a top US official has unveiled a vision for competing with China by forming a broad strategic and economic coalition of like-minded countries.

Kurt Campbell, US President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific policy coordinator said on Wednesday that “a period that had been broadly described as engagement has come to an end.”

“The dominant paradigm is going to be competition. Our goal is to make that a stable, peaceful competition that brings out the best in us,” he said during an online event with Stanford University. But he cautioned: “There will likely be periods ahead, in which there will be moments of concern.”

Campbell said that the proposed Quad summit could look at going ahead with a grand infrastructure plan that would be at par with the China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—a massive pan-Eurasian connectivity project that Beijing leads.

“We want to look this fall to convene an in-person Quad and the hope will be to make a similar kind of engagement on infrastructure more generally,” Campbell observed.

US President Joe Biden has been pushing for massive infrastructure spending at home to kick start the economy—a strategy that was adopted by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt to liberate the US from the Great Depression in the thirties.

Reuters is reporting that in March, Biden had suggested to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that democratic countries should have an infrastructure plan to rival China’s BRI.

In preparation for a lengthy “competition” with China, a Quad cantered economic coalition would be key.

“We can do everything right in Asia, but without an economic strategy, it’s hard to be successful. That’s what Asians are looking for as we go forward … we’re ambitious about the Quad.”

The Quad has already mutated into a Quad+ mechanism which also includes New Zealand, South Korea and Vietnam to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Three Quad countries—India, Japan and Australia are also working together to form alternate supply chains that exclude China.

The US official stressed that more countries could join Quad core in the future.

Campbell pointed out that the “operating system” that the US had helped build in Asia had not been disturbed. Yet, it was “under substantial strain” on account of China’s rise.

“It’s going to need to be reinvigorated in a number of ways, not just by the United States, but other countries that use the operating system and that means Japan, that means South Korea, Australia, countries in Europe that want to do more in Asia and across the board.” France, Germany and Britain have already flagged their strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific region, but details about working as a collective with other partners were yet to be defined.

Campbell asserted that the Quad was not an exclusive “fancy club.” If there are other countries that believe that they’d like to engage and work with us, the door will be open as we go forward,” Campbell said.

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–indianarrative/