- Dec 3, 2017
What Kenya stands to gain from US, India, Japan and Australia Quad groupHeads of state and government rarely communicate with the public through newspaper Op-Ed columns. And in particular they do not write Op-Eds about significant foreign policy issues.
They usually leave that to their Foreign Ministers or other government officials concerned with foreign affairs.
So, it was a surprise to see one published by The Washington Post Online and authored by not one, but leaders.
And not just any heads of state and government but US President Joe Biden (in his first ever Op-Ed as president); Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, India’s Narendra Modi; and Australia’s Scott Morisson.
There is much to be gained in analysing the article to see what it implies not just for the world but even for Kenya in particular.
The purpose of the Op-Ed was to promote the “Free and Open Indo Pacific” idea but they approached the subject very indirectly, and very dramatically:
“In December 2004, the continental shelf off the coast of Indonesia shifted two meters, creating one of the largest tidal waves in modern history and a nearly unprecedented humanitarian crisis around the Indian Ocean. With millions displaced and hundreds of thousands killed, the Indo-Pacific region sounded a clarion call for help. Together, our four countries answered it.
Australia, India, Japan and the United States — a group of democratic nations dedicated to delivering results through practical cooperation — coordinated rapid humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to people in need. Our cooperation, known as “the Quad,” was born in crisis. It became a diplomatic dialogue in 2007 and was reborn in 2017.
Climate change was brought into the discussion:
“It is clear that climate change is both a strategic priority and an urgent global challenge, including for the Indo-Pacific region. That’s why we will work together and with others to strengthen the Paris agreement, and enhance the climate actions of all nations.”
The subject then turned to the great global health challenge of our time: the Covid-19 pandemic. On this the four leaders had this to say:
“And with an unwavering commitment to the health and safety of our people, we are determined to end the covid-19 pandemic because no country will be safe so long as the pandemic continues. The pandemic is among the greatest risks to health and economic stability in recent history, and we must work in partnership to stop it in its tracks. Now, we are launching an ambitious effort to help end Covid-19. Together, we pledge to expand and accelerate production in India of safe, accessible and effective vaccines.”
And it is when the Covid-19 pandemic is mentioned that matters of direct interest to Kenya arise:
“The pandemic is among the greatest risks to health and economic stability in recent history, and we must work in partnership to stop it in its tracks. Now, we are launching an ambitious effort to help end covid-19. Together, we pledge to expand and accelerate production in India of safe, accessible and effective vaccines. We will partner at each stage to ensure that vaccines are administered throughout the Indo-Pacific region into 2022. We will combine our scientific ingenuity, financing, formidable productive capacity and long history of global-health partnership to surge the supply of life-saving vaccines, in close collaboration with multilateral organizations including the World Health Organisation and Covax Facility.”
This Covax Facility is of course the project that has already delivered the first batches of Covid-19 vaccines to Kenya. And notably, India has followed closely with its own donation of vaccines.
This is an act of unforgettable generosity made even more remarkable by the fact that India is still continuing its own vaccination programme. What they have given us is not “leftovers” from a successfully completed vaccination campaign. It is intended rather to provide vaccines for Kenya’s frontline workers, even as the war against the coronavirus rages on, as much in India as here in Kenya.
The nurses, doctors, policemen, teachers, and others who will benefit from India’s generosity will now be able to go about their duties without being weighed down by fear of infection by the deadly coronavirus.
But it’s not only about vaccines. There is an economic dimension as well:
Ending and recovering from the pandemic, standing up to climate change, and advancing our shared regional vision will not be easy. We know we cannot and will not succeed without coordination and cooperation. We will renew and strengthen our partnerships in Southeast Asia, starting with the Association for Southeast Asian Nations, work with the Pacific Islands, and engage the Indian Ocean region to meet this moment. The Quad is a flexible group of like-minded partners dedicated to advancing a common vision and to ensuring peace and prosperity. We welcome and will seek opportunities to work with all of those who share in those goals.”
This mention of “engaging the Indian Ocean region…to ensure peace and prosperity” is of deep significance to Kenya.
Here you note that Japan has been at the forefront of helping Kenya set up its own Coastguard service, with a gift of high-speed patrol motorboats to the maritime police unit a few years ago, along with funds for training and capacity building for the Kenya Coast Guard.
Further, the global conference on the Blue Economy was held here in Nairobi in 2019, with financial support from the government of Japan.
Fisheries is one of Kenya’s great unexploited resources, with a potential of creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, and the creation of new export markets for the products harvested from the Indian Ocean.
In a country where youth unemployment has long passed crisis level, this is an opportunity of great significance.
Global marine fisheries are an economic sector which constitute an annual value of about $100 billion, with associated jobs estimated at about 100 million, directly and indirectly. Kenya has thus hardly scratched the surface of its fisheries potential for job creation.
So, there is much that has already been received by Kenya from members of “The Quad”. And much more yet to be expected.
The mention of “engaging the Indian Ocean region…to ensure peace and prosperity” is of deep significance to Kenya
Democratic Values rally behind the QUAD AllianceOp-ed: In the post-corona world order, countries are willing to give a shot to Globalisation pivoted on democratic values and not profits alone. The recent QUAD meeting of the heads of the states is a symbol of democratic powers aligning to economic and social avenues of collaboration. The long-term move could be to keep out non-democratic powers from deriving the benefits of free economics. The US under Biden has taken a keen interest in assuming the leadership. QUAD is one of the few forums where the US can show-case leadership and garner the support of its allies. The Vaccine Programme is one of the biggest outcomes from the latest meeting. While military actions requirement by QUAD appears distant, economic decoupling with rogue regimes is the least democratic powers can start with.
The United Kingdom appears keen to join the forum in some or the other format. EU powers like Germany and France are considering bilateral collaborations in the Indo-Pacific concept in the same area. The only ocean named after a country, the Indian ocean, hosts the majority of the exchange of goods, raw materials, oil, gas, and resources of the world. In the words of Mr. Boris Johnson, Indo-Pacific is increasingly becoming the geopolitical center of the world. Democracy has stung communism big time in Galwan debacle at the ongoing standoff between India and China. The status of Delhi has shot up multiple times with the massive Vaccine diplomacy and a chance of 5G Diplomacy from next year end.
The global flow of communication and transactions faces serious threats with the actions of the Chinese communist party regime. Australia has long been at the receiving end of the autocratic behavior of the Chinese from trade to diplomacy. There is no principle of equity or reciprocity in trade or diplomacy with China. Perhaps, this is the reason that the Scott government has taken an about-turn from Kevin Rudd’s cold response to the warm embrace of QUAD now. Economic might eventually turn into defence might. But war is a dead-end to healthy economics. When the World says Rules-based or Rule of Law, what CCP hears is Rule by Law. The world must decide if it wants to restrict trade in pre-emption or risk corporate interests importing this dangerous ideology back home in nexus with political elements. The CCP continues to lay traps of joint industrial parks, sister city MOUs, and economic promotion conferences to lure the profit-seeking businessmen from democracies.
The vigilant Indian government banned several Chinese applications on time. Chinese applications are well-known weapons of suppression and manipulation. With apps such as Tiktok and WeChat, China can access a massive, less-literate population and misuse the emotional and social profiling data bank created over time. The ability to talk to the enemy’s population directly, by-passing the enemy’s leadership is a lethal weapon of war. Imagine mobilizing a huge crowd with a fake narrative. China handles electricity grids and power distribution contracts in a few of the South China Sea countries under BRI. Besides the belligerence in the South China Sea, these few also face the trauma of allowing dams over rivers flowing to them from China for the sake of electricity and let China also control their water taps. This Chinese concept of Unrestricted Warfare will force QUAD nations to bond further and take actual defence actions on the ground in the future. Economic and social collaborations of the QUAD should go ahead with the isolation of rogue regimes in the back of mind in the short to medium term.
From the QUAD, Australia can be the first casualty when China resorts to any belligerent move in the region. From the possibility of cutting off sea routes to shunting down education business to banning crucial exports to Australia, it can play all the moves. The freedom of navigation of the seas is universal and accepted by all and QUAD can help preserve it. The QUAD nations must also collaborate diplomatically. Be it India’s claim to Pakistan occupied Kashmir and terrorism or China’s predatory take over of ports like Gwadar, Hambantota, Senkaku islands, or activities in the 9-dash line. The link of the Indian ocean with the pacific is inevitable and a common front of a tussle for democracies with the communist mainland of China. The Chinese navy is visibly becoming lethal with time. Islands of the critical Malacca straits should be considered for setting up a QUAD headquarter as the gatekeeper of the Indo-Pacific.
The future of the QUAD alliance will extent to QUAD plus and a separate South East Asia alliance under the leadership of India. About 10 nations depend on waters flowing from China occupied Tibet. Waters drive the economics of industry, electricity, and human survival. QUAD must consider supporting these nations diplomatically against this probable weapon which can cause flood or famines or hamper electricity supply. Every bilateral and multi-lateral agreement proposal involving rogue members must undergo security scrutiny, be it RCEP or Trans-Pacific Partnership. The hard-earned taxpayers’ money or wealth of democracies must not flow out to enrich rogue elements anywhere under the pretext of free trade.
Op-ed: In the post-corona world order, countries are willing to give a shot to Globalisation pivoted on democratic values and not profits alone. The recent