The Quad and what to expect going ahead

March 10, 2021 11:17 AM

With the vision of upholding “freedom and prosperity” in the Asia-Pacific region, the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe laid the foundations of the possibility of a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, also known as Quad, in the year 2007.

narendra modi joe bidenIndia has realised the potential it holds in the Indo-Pacific region, and is therefore proactively engaging in Quad.

By Rashi Randev

The Formation and Revival of Quad

With the vision of upholding “freedom and prosperity” in the Asia-Pacific region, the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe laid the foundations of the possibility of a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, also known as Quad, in the year 2007. This association can be described as an inter-governmental consortium between US, Japan, Australia and India, acting as a security forum, where the member countries of the Quad organise summits, exchanges the information and carry out military drills. Globally it was believed that the rationale behind this consortium was, ostensibly to counter the rising aggression and prominence of china in the Indo-pacific region. However, in 2007, the Quad could only hold a single bout of dialogue and joint military drills, before taking a pause which lasted a decade, largely because of regime and political changes across the four nations.

It was during the ASEAN summit of 2017 that the leaders of these four countries came together and resuscitated the Quad arrangement, to contain the escalation of Chinese aggression in the South China Sea and turned their focus towards the “issues of common interest in the Indo-Pacific region”.

In the recent years all the four member countries of Quad have become increasingly more circumspective towards china amidst the disagreements and differences over territory, trade, violations of human rights, including tensions along the Sino-Indian border, claims of Chinese influence and intrusion in Australian politics, China and Japan’s dispute over Diaoyu/ Senkaku Islands and former Trump administration’s consistent differences with Beijing. After its revival in 2017, the Quad nations now exhibit deeper levels of cooperation and engagements in spheres of security, foreign policy and domains of military and naval cooperation.

Malabar Exercise 2020

The most notable engagement of Quad is the Malabar exercises held last year, the phase one of the exercise took place in November 2020 in the Bay of Bengal and phase two of the exercise took place in December 2020 in the Arabian Sea. The Malabar exercise, which is time and again subjected to criticism by China, can be described as a leading interoperability naval exercise between the U.S, India and Japan. Last year Australia joined the exercise and made it quadrilateral and gave a new dimension to the global perception of Quad. Through their participation in the exercise, the United States Navy (USN), Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF), Indian Navy (IN) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN), the four countries engaged to enhance safety and security in the maritime domain. With India’s growing hostility with China and Pakistan, this quadrilateral exercise of such a large scale became essential in showing India’s uncompromising and firm stance towards both the countries.

Exercise Malabar 2020, meant to uphold free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific through maritime security cooperation and establish that the quad countries are steadfast to a rules-based international order.

How does India benefit from Quad?

India has realised the potential it holds in the Indo-Pacific region, and is therefore proactively engaging in Quad. The incidents of aggression along the LAC at the Galwan valley are responsible for its snowball involvement and has logistically invested in agreements with all the members of Quad nations. In the year 2016, both the US and India signed the LEMOA (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement) and COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement). In 2020, by creating a new form of virtual diplomacy through the means of a virtual conference, Australia and India signed logistical agreements. The signing of ACSA between Japan and India (Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement) in September 2020, the agreement will ease the provisions of supplies and services between the Self-Defense Forces of Japan and the Indian Armed Forces, promoting a closer cooperation and enabling both the countries to assiduously contribute towards international peace and security. The intentions behind the strategic importance of these logistical agreements is to increase the interoperability within the Quad Navies and to provide a frequent access of naval bases which are spread across the Indo-Pacific region, through which the Quad nations can smoothly navigate through the Indo-Pacific waters, to carry out search operations and to be prepared in case if a conflict arises.

The Future of Quad in a Post Pandemic world

The COVID-19 and the economic implications it has brought has hit the world and the reverberation of the pandemic has enfeebled every nation. The Biden administration is committed towards Quad but its major concern is to cope up with the pandemic, which has claimed more than half a million lives. The focus of Biden’s presidency in terms of domestic and foreign engagements and policies is to rebuild the American nation and rescind the damages done by President Trump. Australia sees Quad as a counterbalance alternative to be guarded against China’s influence, it is also economically dependent on China as it exports its coal and Iron ore primarily from China. India and Japan both are impacted by the pandemic and therefore none of the four countries are in the economic position to take Quad to the level of the regional power it deserves to be. Quad is a confluence of four major nations in the world and two seas, at the moment it requires multilateral cooperation to reinforce itself and should only reckon its power and influence once the economies of all four countries have regained their strength.

In the recent Quad meeting, held last month in Tokyo, India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar along with the ministers of the other Quad countries discussed the implications of the post pandemic international order, bringing a rule based order in the Indo-Pacific waters, peaceful resolution of dispute in Myanmar, access to affordable vaccines, health and security dimensions, flexible supply chains and development of an open, free and inclusive Indo-Pacific in the presence of Chinese aggression.

The leaders of the Quad nations plan to hold the first Quad summit, virtually in a few days. The meeting is scheduled to take place before Anthony Blinken (US Secretary of State) and Lloyd Austin (US Defence Secretary) leave to visit Japan and South Korea by the end of March. President Joe Biden, Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga are expected to be the part of the summit to discuss the problems and solutions regarding fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccinations and challenges of climate change. The association and cooperation of Quad with Vietnam, New Zealand and South Korea through the Corona pandemic has also given a new dimension to Quad.

With the present global order and developments, the future of Quad seems promising but the future can be highly unpredictable. However, it can be established that as constructed on the existing global influences and power subtleties, world’s greatest powers with their political agency as well as their economical, structural and military imperatives have worked in tandem to create and constitute Quad, which can act as an effective balancer to China and can counterpoise its increasing domination and aggression, which can lead towards the development of a multipolar directive in a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

(The author is a research scholar at the Center for Canadian, US, and Latin American Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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