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Possibility and Implications of a Himalayan Quad

Southern Asia is a region that boasts of different geographical features, varied ethnicity as well as distinct political systems. The region is rich in resources – human and natural and is a popular market for the foreign investors. Despite the mutual interest among the states being greater visibility in the global market, there has been a tussle for power between India, China and Pakistan. There has also been a scramble between the neighbouring countries for regional demarcation of territories.

Though the countries do not rank high up in the ladder of developed economies, Southern Asia continues to attract attention due to presence of three nuclear armed countries, increasing importance of the Indo-Pacific region, rising concern about the Chinese behaviour in world politics and the emergence of India as a responsible power. In the context of the efforts being made to strengthen the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), Dr Jagannath Panda of the Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses, New Delhi proposed the possibility of a Himalayan Quad. The South China Morning Post too referred to the same by discussing the need to institutionalise the Himalayan Quad comprising of China, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan to counterbalance the Quad.

The possibility of a Himalayan Quad in making is not beyond thinking. All the members have been involved in strategic partnerships. There is an evident affinity at different levels between the countries from culture to historical alliance to infrastructural dependency. There are however some challenges for that to materialise. Nepal and Afghanistan have some reliance on India with respect to infrastructure as well as other areas like education, trade etc. Apart from the role that India plays in influencing the members, Russia too will be forced to pick sides. Russia and China have had a history of ideological brotherhood. But, Russia is also inclined towards improving relationships with India. Afghanistan and Pakistan hold a special importance for the United States as the latter struggles to overcome the menace of terrorism. Thus, an alliance with China and these countries will be a source of concern to US and will result in strained relationships.

The possibility of a Himalayan Quad seems unlikely due to the global complexities that the stakeholders face. It can at best emerge as a mutual support group. However, the strategic and defence related ambitions will have to wait. China has been threatening the world with its territorial disregard by means of naval exercises beyond its boundaries, border skirmishes etc. Yet, institutionalising a quad with the mentioned members will not serve any high profile purposes and thus does not seem as a risk that China will take.