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A powerful Senate committee has overwhelmingly approved the key China strategic competition bill which among other things supports the QUAD grouping and enhances security partnership with India.
Known as the “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the Quad grouping comprises the US, India, Australia and Japan. The representatives for the four-member nations have met periodically since its establishment in 2007. The top leaders of the four countries held a historic virtual summit hosted by President Joe Biden last month.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, following a three hour debate and several amendments voted 21-1 to approve the Strategic Competition Act on Wednesday.
The United States should reaffirm its commitment to the Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership with India and further deepen bilateral defence consultations and collaboration with the country, says the bipartisan bill moved by Senators Jim Risch and Bob Menendez, ranking member and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
It urges the US government that in close consultation with India, identify areas where it can provide diplomatic and other support as appropriate for India’s efforts to address economic and security challenges posed by China in the region.
The two lawmakers described the legislation as an unprecedented, bipartisan effort to mobilise all American strategic, economic, and diplomatic tools for an Indo-Pacific strategy that enables the US government to compete effectively with China and the challenges it poses to its national and economic security for decades to come.
One amendment moved by Senator Edward Markey, and approved seeks to establish a QUAD Intra-Parliamentary Working Group to connect together lawmakers from the United States, Japan, Australia and India. Markey is chair of the Asia-Pacific subcommittee.
“The Quad Inter-Parliamentary Group will help our four countries diversify cooperation on issues beyond its traditional defence focus such as by delivering alternatives to China’s Belt and Road in the Indo-Pacific and delivering on the promise to provide over one billion COVID-19 vaccines to the region,” he said.
The bill bolsters the United States diplomatic strategy in addressing challenges posed by the Chinese government and reaffirms America’s commitment to its allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world, and calls for the United States to reassert its leadership within international organisations and other multilateral fora.
It renews America’s commitment to allies and partners by prioritising security assistance for the Indo-Pacific region, and strengthens US diplomatic efforts to address challenges posed by China in the Western Hemisphere, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Arctic, and Oceania.
The Indo-Pacific is the most consequential region for American foreign policy. China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Beijing has also made substantial progress in militarising its man-made islands in the past few years.
Beijing claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. But Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims. In the East China Sea, China has territorial disputes with Japan.
The bill seeks to invest in universal values, authorising a broad range of human rights and civil society measures, including supporting democracy in Hong Kong and imposing sanctions with respect to forced labour, forced sterilisation, and other abuses in Xinjiang.
It focuses on countering and confronting China’s predatory international economic behaviour, and includes measures to track intellectual property violators, Chinese government subsidies, monitor Chinese use of Hong Kong to circumvent US export controls, and track the presence of Chinese companies in US capital markets.
It directs the United States to provide technical assistance to countries working to counter foreign corrupt practices, and debt relief to the poorest countries who have requested forbearance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill calls for enhanced coordination and cooperation with allies on arms control in the face of China’s military modernisation and expansion, and requires reporting on Chinese ballistic, hypersonic glide, and cruise missiles, conventional forces, nuclear, space, cyberspace and other strategic domains.
It also seeks a detailed description of United States diplomatic efforts with Pakistan with respect to matters relevant to China including investments by Beijing in Pakistan through the Belt and Road Initiative.
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In his remarks on the Senate floor a day earlier, Senator Jim Inhofe said that there is a need for the United States to increase investment in national defence to deter Chinese aggression. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army, he said, has been expanding its network of strategic ports and bases around the world, from Djibouti, to Pakistan, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.
“Last year, China started going after the territory of India, which has resulted in dozens of dead Indian soldiers. They’ve continually harassed Japan and Taiwan in the air and on the sea, their fishing fleets have terrorised small Pacific island nations. Over 200 Chinese boats are staking out a reef in the South China Sea claimed by the Philippines,” Inhofe said claims Economic Times.