QUAD: Multipolar effort towards a free and open Indo-Pacific and the geopolitical friction it may cause

Updated: March 26, 2021 2:09 PM

The year 2020, with the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic, concerns about climate change and security challenges faced by Indo-Pacific nations had a consequent influence on geopolitical construct of the region and the Quad summit was indeed a major shift from symbolism to action to show its commitment towards establishing a multipolar directive in a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

QUADThe Indo-Pacific construct advocates for a free and open Indo-Pacific but from the Chinese perspective, its main goal is to contain China and incapacitate its endeavour to expand its capabilities and interests beyond its maritime borders.

By Rashi Randev, 

The year 2020, with the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic, concerns about climate change and security challenges faced by Indo-Pacific nations had a consequent influence on geopolitical construct of the region and the Quad summit was indeed a major shift from symbolism to action to show its commitment towards establishing a multipolar directive in a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Towards a Virtual Diplomacy: The First Quad Summit

Apart from being a colloquium to informally discuss, deliberate and formulate alternatives to counter aggressive and illicit activities of China, the Quad stands out for various other relevant reasons such as ensuring maritime security, safeguarding freedom of navigation and territorial connectivity, providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, initiatives towards energy preservation, regional capacity building and to cultivate and develop a monetarily viable as well as a pecuniary stable alternative to One Belt One Road (OBOR) are prospective issues of shared interests for this Quad grouping.

The first Quad summit which took place virtually on 12th March 2021, was presided by leaders of the Quad nations- President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Premier Yoshihide Suga. The virtual summit was an affirmative statement and assurance of a rule based maritime order, exhibiting its commitment to make perceptible contribution in maintaining stability, peace and prosperity of the region, including the resolve to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19.

The leaders held discussions regarding global and regional concerns of collective interests by exchanging and deliberating on practical capacities and areas of cooperation towards conserving a free, open and inclusive Indo-pacific region. The Joint Statement called the “Spirit of the Quad” had absolutely no mention of China but it focussed on highlighting the role of international law in the maritime purview, in accordance with directives of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and enabling cooperation and collaborations for maritime security in order to meet the challenges in the East and South China Seas, which were quite the indication pointing towards the paramount intent of counterbalancing China’s unlawful maritime expansion. The leaders also discussed the other concerns relating to Indo-Pacific region, including the coup in Myanmar and pledged their commitment towards ensuring a democratic transition.

Notably, three constructive and affirmative steps were taken during this summit, firstly, the Quad Vaccine partnership, secondly, the Quad Climate working Group to globally brace climate actions on capacity building, mitigation, adaptation, technology and climate finance. Thirdly, the Quad Critical and Emerging Technology Working Group to enable cooperation on international standards and innovate technologies of the future. These initiatives taken during the summit are indicative of the fact that Quad was not just formed to counter China’s increasing aggression but have various, democratic, humanitarian and environmental agendas in the Indo-Pacific region.

India’s Vaccination Diplomacy: The Vaccine Maitri Initiative

The main agenda and emphasis of the summit was on the Quad Vaccine partnership by bringing together the four Quad countries’ scientific capacities, medical and financing proficiencies, with their developing, manufacturing and deliverance capabilities for creating a vaccine expert working group to execute a pioneering commitment towards an innocuous and operational vaccine distribution.

Quad nations perceive the vaccination cooperation as a non-traditional security concern in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, during the summit Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed on the ancient Indian philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakan’ which considerers the world as one big family and how Quad countries should be supporting each other in this time of need amidst the pandemic and therefore constructing Quad as a progressive vision and a force for global good. According to the Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla “This is a vaccine supply chain which is built by trust and being built to convey trust. It is an example of human-centric international cooperation and globalisation that the Prime Minister has referred to on more than one occasion.”

He also asserted that the focus of the summit was committed solely towards vaccinations and that U.S., Australia and Japan will be financing the ‘Vaccine Maitri Initiative’ that India has initiated. The initiative has been valued and appreciated and has positively been recognised as a constructive step towards India’s Vaccine diplomacy.

Geopolitical Friction: Russia’s Concerns towards the Quad

The Indo-Pacific construct advocates for a free and open Indo-Pacific but from the Chinese perspective, its main goal is to contain China and incapacitate its endeavour to expand its capabilities and interests beyond its maritime borders. Russia sees China as a critical partner against the U.S. and it can be ascertained that Russia’s opposition towards the Quad is predominantly driven by Chinese concerns and therefore the replacing of the Asia-Pacific geopolitical construct with the Indo-Pacific is not well received by Russia.

Russia acknowledges and understands India’s comprehensive vision of the Indo-Pacific constructed on the basis of International law but has its reservations and objections about the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue as according to Russia it could be detrimental to regional cooperation and risk peace and stability in the present multipolar world order. For Russia, China is an essential ally in its struggle to maintain a multipolar world, where the nations have an out-and-out autonomy in domestic and external concerns and do not have to understand world politics through the lens of the U.S.

(The author is PhD Scholar at the Centre for American Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Email: rashi.randev@hotmail.com Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)

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