The Quad rises as a grouping of substance

September 27, 2021 2:15 PM

The Joint Statement issued after a two-hour meeting suggests that the grouping has not only built upon the initiatives of vaccines, climate change and critical and emerging technologies finalized at their virtual Summit in March, but have also expanded the Quad activities to a host of new areas, which will cement their partnership further.

quad summitThis cooperation builds on an already robust bilateral cyber collaboration between the grouping’s members.

By Anil Wadhwa, 

Spurred on by a supportive Biden administration, the leaders of USA, India, Japan, and Australia met for an in -person Summit of the Quad ( an acronym for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) on September 24 in Washington, and recommitted themselves to promoting the free, open, rules-based order, rooted in international law to enhance security and prosperity in the Indo – Pacific and beyond. The Joint Statement issued after a two-hour meeting suggests that the grouping has not only built upon the initiatives of vaccines, climate change and critical and emerging technologies finalized at their virtual Summit in March, but have also expanded the Quad activities to a host of new areas, which will cement their partnership further. Importantly, they have agreed that their leaders and foreign ministers will meet annually and their senior officials will meet regularly. They have kept the Asean’s centrality and unity, as well as the Asean outlook on the Indo Pacific in mind, and have agreed to work with diverse countries in the region and beyond. In this context, the Quad has welcomed the September 2021 EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, thus demonstrating their commitment to take all like-minded countries along.

The Quad Vaccines Expert Group has actively improved the Quad coordination efforts to combat the pandemic through quality assured vaccine production and equitable access, and close collaboration with multilateral efforts including the COVAX facility. They have pledged to donate more than 1.2 billion doses globally; and so far, have delivered 79 million vaccine doses to the Indo Pacific. The future road map on Vaccines has now been clearly fleshed out – vaccine production at Biological E in Hyderabad will come on line this year, thanks to the Quad open and secure supply chains and investments, and will reach 1 billion doses by the end of 2022. The Quad has welcomed India’s decision to resume exports of vaccines beginning October 2021. Japan has set aside $3.3 billion as Covid 19 Crisis Response Emergency Support Loan for the region; Australia will deliver $212 million in grant aid to purchase vaccines for South East Asia and the Pacific, besides allocating $219 million to support last mile vaccine roll outs. The Quad will conduct a joint pandemic – preparedness tabletop or exercise in 2022 and will cooperate in clinical trials and genomic surveillance.

On climate change, the Quad countries have pledged clean energy innovation and deployment, and adaptation, resilience and preparedness. Important initiatives have been announced for decarbonizing shipping and port operations and employment of clean hydrogen technology, The Quad will cooperate to establish responsible and resilient clean energy supply chains, and will strengthen the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and climate information systems. On critical and emerging technologies, in partnership with industry, the Quad is advancing the deployment of secure and transparent 5G and beyond 5G networks, and working to promote innovation and trustworthy vendors and approaches such as an Open -RAN. By 2022, they will work to demonstrate the scalability and cybersecurity of open, standards based technology for which a decision has been taken to launch a senior cyber security group. The Quad is also mapping the supply chain of critical technologies and materials, including semiconductors through a semiconductor supply chains initiative. This will hold particular interest for India, which is looking to invite semiconductor manufacturers in the country. Contact Groups on advanced communications and artificial intelligence have been set up, focusing on standards. They have launched a Quad statement of principles on technology design, development, governance and use, which will guide not only the region but the world towards responsible, open, and high standards innovation.

A new Quad infrastructure partnership has been launched, which will map the region’s infrastructure needs, and will provide high standards infrastructure in the Indo Pacific. The funding mechanism, however, has not been clearly spelt out. The Quad however, has again supported open, fair, and transparent lending practices in line with international rule and standards for major creditor countries, including debt sustainability and accountability. In space, the grouping has decided to identify new collaboration opportunities and share satellite data for peaceful purposes such as monitoring climate change, disaster response and preparedness, sustainable uses of oceans and marine resources; but most importantly, on “responding to challenges in shared domains”. 100 Quad graduate fellowships have been set up for 25 STEM students from each country, which will be supported by Schmidt -Futures, a philanthropic initiative, with support from companies like Accenture, Blackstone, Boeing, Google, Mastercard, and Western Digital.

Of particular importance to India is the Quad decision to deepen counter terrorism and humanitarian cooperation in accordance with UNSCR 2593, and the affirmation that Afghan territory should not be used to threaten or attack any country or to shelter or train terrorists, or to plan or to finance terrorist acts. Support has been expressed for UNCLOS, for meeting challenges of the maritime rules – based order. Support has been expressed for island nations of the Pacific for their infrastructure and climate mitigation needs. Support has been clearly expressed for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, an end to violence in Myanmar, and the implementation of the Asean five-point consensus.

The evolving Quad agenda shows that a genuine democratic grouping of substance and salience; which is not a military alliance has evolved rapidly, and over time, will provide balance to the forces inimical to a rules-based order in the Indo Pacific. With the inclusion of Australia in the Malabar naval exercises, the security and interoperability element so important for maritime security of the Quad nations has already been hived off from the ongoing regular activities of the Quad, while the information sharing network between the grouping continues to be refined and improved. India has reasons to be pleased with these developments.

(The author is a former Secretary (East) in the ministry of External Affairs, and served as the Indian Ambassador to Italy, Thailand, Oman and Poland. He is currently a Distinguished Fellow with the Vivekananda International Foundation in New Delhi. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)

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