Can The ‘Eurasian Penta’ Be Imagined? – OpEd
The Eurasian Penta has become the need of the hour in the backdrop of the Indo-Pacific Quad. The main argument is that this Quad would further create rift and put India and China into confrontational mode.
Until the realization of the current century as the 21st century, the peace, prosperity, and progress is direly needed in general for Asia and India, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan in particular. India and China’s realization of full potential of economic and strategic cooperation and interests lie in the imagined “Eurasian Penta.” Russia has been sharing good terms with all the member countries of the imagined regional organization, thus, may take lead in this direction and bring all members under one umbrella of the imagined “Eurasian Penta”.
The world of the 21st century has become very progressive and liberalist, wherein, the sense of economic engagements and dynamism have been emerging as the core values of the global politics and international relations. In the same direction, state/s as players have been making endeavors to attain the peace and prosperity through the dynamic and effective role of the regional and global organizations. In this background, the European Union (EU), Association of Southeast Asian Countries (ASEAN), African Union (AU) etc. have been proved very successful regional organizations.
The Eurasia particularly covering India, China, Russia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are strategically very important countries but given the several bilateral and geopolitical irritants, the regional integration has not been concretized as anticipated. Rather, India has joined the Indo-Pacific Quad along with the US, Japan, and Australia. The same has not given positive resonance, rather it has invited the Chinese wrath. Thus, it is anticipated that it would further the rift between India and China. There are certain reasons to believe that the relations between these two countries would decide the new world order. In the current tense geopolitical scenario, the author would like to propose the new regional structure in the form of “Eurasian Penta” comprising of India, China, Russia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan
The imagined regional organization the “Eurasian Penta” may be guided by the objectives like multifaceted cooperation in identified areas like economic, security, energy, and connectivity, and people to people contacts by following the principles like protection and promotion of unity, integrity, and sovereignty of the member countries. The regional organization would become successful, if it is not guided by the whimsical persecutions, rather by the realistic goals keeping the larger regional interests in perspectives. Perhaps, it seems that the proposed regional organization would facilitate to make the peaceful, prosperous and stable the region. With these strengths, it can turn the Eurasian region as the pivot of the global politics and international relations. Partly, it can immunize the region from the external intervention. It would have the potential to change the balance of power and the world order in the region’s favor.
The Indo-Pacific Quad: Boon or Bane?
Currently, the concept of The Indo-Pacific Quad has been figuring very prominently in the global political narratives. In the backdrop of the growing profile of China given it strategic posturing, inflating defence budget for modernization, the militarization of the South China Sea and violation of the international norms, the serious thought has been given to the revival of Quad during the recent ASEAN Summit. The expanding strategic and economic influences of China have given the exasperating setbacks to the regional and extra-regional powers and subsequently, resulted in the concretization of the Quad.
It was conceptualized by the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan (2007). The Quad is comprised of Japan, US, Australian, and India. However, it was aborted in the embryonic state given the withdrawal of PM Kevin Rudd as he has been anticipating the Chinese wrath. Moreover, the heightening geopolitical tensions between the United States and China in the Asia-Pacific has been taken a serious threat to the regional peace and stability.
ASEAN is a major region organization of the Indo-Pacific region. The creation of Indo-Pacific Quad is being taken by the ASEAN as merely and eerily another extension of great-power rivalries in the Indo-Pacific region. It would not only likely to impacts seriously the regional security and stability of the region, instead inevitably at the expense of the ASEAN interests. The objectives of the Quad are to create a rule-based world order wherein, the freedom of navigation and overflight and respect for international law should prevail. The non-proliferation and terrorism issues should be taken care. Additionally, the enhancing connectivity and protection of maritime security would be the main elements of regional cooperation under the umbrella of Quad.
Implications of the Quad
The Indian geopolitical analysts like Rajeev Sharma (2017) and Bawa Singh (2018) are of the view that India is not going to be benefitted being part of the Quad. The Quad would not only to damage the Indo-China relations, rather have serious implications for the entire region as well.
The ASEAN countries and Australia had already expressed apprehensions in this regard. It is viewed and argued that the Quad would put further India and China into confrontational mode. Sharma (2017), has argued in his commentaries that it would have far worse strategic implications for India as it shares the long border with China. He was of the strong opinion that it would make malevolent neighbor more pesky and risky than the benevolent friends far abroad. On the other hand, it would further strengthen and concretize the Sino-Russia strategic proximity. The Quad one way or the other could also become a fault-line between India and Iran relations. Moreover, India could be used as guinea pig by the US.
The Quad has not been going well with the ASEAN. The existing multilateral mechanisms like the East Asia Summit (EAS), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus), and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) have the same potential as set forth for the Quad in the Indo-Pacific region. There are three sub-regional organizations like the ARF, the ADMM and ADMM Plus have been working in the direction of taking care of maritime cooperation and ensuring the security, peace, and stability of the region. Thus, in this backdrop, the Quad is being taken as a strategy of power play in the region.
The Eurasian Penta
Although, there is nothing new in the new name in this concept of the “Eurasian Penta”, comprising of India, China, Russia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. However, in the embryonic stage, it seems that it is a ridiculous and farcical idea given the bilateral and regional irritants. But if the member countries of the proposed regional organization can learn from history, there are certain reasons to believe that it is possible to be materialized.
The colonial powers had experienced arch enmities, even then had come forward to form the European Union, the highest stage of regional organization. The European Union has been working successfully dumping the dollar and experiencing the highest intra-trade in the range of 60-70% through the local regional currency i.e., Euro. Thus, learning from such experiences, the Eurasian countries can come forward to form the “Eurasian Penta ”.
It is crystal clear, as what kind of the internal dynamics have been existing in the Eurasian Penta. All the major countries of the proposed regional organization’s bilateral/regional relations have been moving in diametrically opposite directions, for stance, India, China; India, Pakistan; Pakistan, Afghanistan; China, Russia’s tilt towards Pakistan and Afghanistan. How this kind of relations can be improved and would facilitate the materialization of the organization? Despite some geopolitical differences between China and Russia, these countries relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan, more or less are cordial and cozy. Along with the major challenges of bilateral irritants, Pakistan and Afghanistan factors would be regional irritants between India and China.
Recently, some positive steps have been taken in improving the regional cooperation. It was agreed in the Wuhan Informal Summit, wherein, under the leadership of Modi-Xi, some positive and welcome decisions have been taken. It is somewhat an attempt to put partly the bilateral irritants in cold storage. Now, China and India are seeing the potential for investment in Afghanistan. Both countries have started sharing common concerns given the expanding radicalism and terrorism not only in Afghanistan, rather in the entire region as well. It is an indication that despite Pakistan’s reservations, the proposed regional cooperation in Afghanistan would be a positive step. Russia and China have also shared the common concerns in Afghanistan, where these countries can work together. The member countries of the proposed Penta have been sharing common platforms in some regional organizations like RIC, SCO, SAARC etc.
The only problem of the Eurasian Penta is the Pakistan factor. Currently, the Pakistan economy is passing through the critical phase. If it is integrated per se in the Eurasian Penta, it can be bailed out per se from the economic quagmire by extending economic cooperation, trade, connectivity, etc. The extended economic cooperation would help in the improvement of the economy. Moreover, the soft power in term of the pressure tactics could become one way for putting the member countries in order. Russia has been sharing good terms with all countries and it should take the lead in this direction.
The Chinese OBOR is being supported by countries like Russia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, except India on the sovereignty ground. India and Russia’s INSTC is a very ambitious project and could become a game changer for the Eurasian Penta. Chabahar and Gwadar ports could prove wonderful bridges for regional integration. CASA 1000 and TAPI could be materialized under the imagined Eurasian Penta.
The Eurasian Penta has the potential to become one of the major regional organizations in terms of geography and demography. The population used to always remain a dividend. About half of the population is in the region. The region is very rich in mineral resources. The region would have four nuclear powers in the organization. By coming together, the problem of connectivity can be get rid of. The free trade can do wonder for the region. The gas and oil pipeline can reach to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan etc.
Some insights may be taken from the European Union (EU). Can anybody deny the turbulent phase of the 19th century, the European had undergone the fever of nationalism, revolutions, and numerous wars between/among the colonial and powerful nations? The European history has been remained tainted with numerous wars and arch enmities. The wars like the Greek War of Independence (1821-1832), Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), the German and Italy Unification Wars, Serbo-Bulgarian War (1885); Greco–Turkish War (1897); and the revolutions (1820s and 1840s), and of course the World Wars. Most of these wars were in colonial/imperial conflicts in nature. These had been fought to capture and expand the colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Countries like India, China, Afghanistan were also colonies at some point of time. Even in the present context, the bilateral or regional conflicts are/were the legacies of the divide rule policies of the colonial masters.
The Penta can learn from the European Union, how to increase the intra-trade through the regional currency. The Penta may have its Eurasian Union, Eurasian Bank and Eurasian Currency etc., which can be done in phased manner. For the moment, keep the strategic issues in cold storage, and improve the bilateral/regional relations. It is suggested that the Penta needs to give importance to the bilateral and region economic integration and cooperation, thus, Eurasia would emerge as a strong and strategic region!! Being acceptable and sharing good terms with all the proposed member countries, Russia may take lead in this direction. It is suggested that China may moderate its aggressive and confrontational posture, Pakistan may control the non-state actors and India may adjust its relations with Pakistan and China, by this, the Eurasian Penta could emerge as a strong and acceptable regional organization.
*Dr. Bawa Singh is teaching at the Centre for South and Central Asian Studies, School of Global Relations, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda, India.