By Long Xingchun
Some in India have hyped-up the idea that after the US and its allies leave Afghanistan, a "new Quad" between China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan may be formed in the future.
For example, Indian defense expert Rajeev Agarwal recently said, "Surrounded by a hostile Pakistan, a belligerent China and yet unsure Iran, India has to remain vigilant to the developing situation." He mentioned that despite Russia's "old and traditional ties with India," Moscow was not on board to include India in Afghan peace talks twice this year.
India is worried about the "new Quad" because it is worried about Afghanistan's future situation after the withdrawal of US and its allies.
After US' withdrawal, Afghanistan's neighboring countries may have to play a leading role in the country's peace and stability. Thus, it is obviously necessary and positive for China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan - the most important four neighbors of Afghanistan - to strengthen coordination on the Afghan issue. Their enhanced coordination can help prevent Afghanistan from being further divided and dominated by some Western major countries.
China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan have some common interests on regional issues. But the four countries will not develop into a so-called new Quad. China advocates a non-aligned diplomacy and the four countries' cooperation are far from forming a security group.
India's anxiety mirrors its concerns over the consequence of its engagement with the US, Australia and Japan in Quad. As the bloc targets China, some of its aggressive moves will be counterattacked by Beijing. New Delhi's cooperation with Washington also dissatisfies its traditional partner - Moscow. India is confronted with Pakistan as well. Furthermore, even though New Delhi does not have any apparent issues of friction with Tehran, it has coordinated the US in the latter's sanctions on Iran.
It is widely believed that the Quad's imaginary enemy is China. Despite certain development, there are inherent points of divergence among Washington, Tokyo, New Delhi and Canberra. ASEAN, a vital player in Asia, also has concerns about the Quad. This somewhat prevents Japan and India from completely supporting the Quad to become a militarized group. If the Quad becomes an exclusive military alliance with the role to divide Asia, ASEAN will firmly object to it and India will run into isolation in Asia.
China and Russia share similar stances on the Afghan issue where they have common interests. Both hope for peace and stability in Afghanistan. Neither of them will interfere in the country's internal affairs. They also hope the Taliban will fulfill their promises so that Afghanistan does not become a hotbed for terrorism.
China and Russia have formed a partnership rather than an alliance. The two countries are strengthening communication and coordination on many specific issues. For example, the UN Security Council on Monday adopted a resolution about the Afghan issue, and both China and Russia abstained. Obviously, the two countries had coordinated in advance. The approach of "forming partnership rather than alliance" between Beijing and Moscow is in the interests of both sides. It will also prevent the global community from falling into another Cold War or a confrontation between blocs again. Therefore, there is no need to form the so-called new Quad to confront the US. In fact, coordination between China and Russia is already capable of dealing with challenges from the US in many ways.
China and Russia are cooperating on the Afghan issue, but the two countries are not aiming at establishing a new Quad mechanism to counterbalance the existing Quad formed by the US, Japan, India, and Australia.
India's concern about the new Quad actually reflects one fact: New Delhi itself is aware that the Quad will undermine the peace and stability in Asia. It has realized that its approach is not constructive, and thus, it is now scared of possible countermeasures in the future. But in fact, Beijing and Moscow have no intention whatsoever to plunge the world into a new cold war, or to create a confrontation between two camps. Given today's international situation and the diplomatic strategies of both China and Russia, it is unlikely that these two countries will go this far.
The author is a senior research fellow with the Academy of Regional and Global Governance at the Beijing Foreign Studies University and president of the Chengdu Institute of World Affairs.