“What are the global and regional implications of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between the United States, Japan, Australia and India?”
Experts from Australia, India, Japan and China give their brief analysis on the global and regional implications of the Quad.
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the “Quad”) is an informal strategic dialogue between the United States, Japan, Australia and India. The Quad was formed in 2007, but was discontinued soon after when Australia withdrew due to then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s concerns about exacerbating US-China tensions (equally a concern today). In 2017 the four governments decided to revive the Quad. The Quad held its first leader-level summit, virtually, on 12 March 2021. In the Joint Statement from this summit the four leaders committed to “a shared vision for the free and open Indo-Pacific”.
How will the Quad develop? Some have described it as potentially a “mini-NATO”, but an emphasis on military cooperation would inevitably be seen as confrontational. The Joint Statement from the March summit refers to a range of issues including the economic and health impacts of COVID-19, climate change, cyber space, critical technologies, counterterrorism, quality infrastructure investment, and humanitarian-assistance and disaster-relief as well as maritime domains. More broadly, the Quad could have a key role helping to manage competitive coexistence within the region. The most important task for the Quad could be to promote constructive engagement with China across these issues – perhaps through a dialogue framework, along Quad lines, that includes China.
Senior Associate Fellow at Asia-Pacific Leadership Network (APLN) and Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP)
The first Summit meeting of the four heads of governments of the Quad in March 2021 brought further clarity on the form, purpose and content of the grouping. An assemblage of like-minded states, it seeks to meet shared challenges in the Asia-Pacific region. India conceives of it not as an exclusive alliance, but as an inclusive effort, which other compatible states can engage with, on issues as diverse as health, climate, economic and technological change, infra-structure development and maritime security. Policy coordination among the four core players on a wide range of common concerns is expected to help reinforce the rules based order.
China is not mentioned in the Quad’s official statements. It is, nevertheless, an unspoken sub-text of the group given that each Quad member is facing its own set of difficulties with Beijing. An ongoing military stand-off with China since April 2020 has brought the Quad’s security potential into sharper relief for India. Yet, New Delhi would prefer the Quad succeed as a global and regional force for good on common concerns, rather than crystallize into a military partnership. This, however, will be determined by China’s own behaviour.
Dr. Manpreet Sethi
Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi and Board Member of Asia-Pacific Leadership Network (APLN)
The world appears to enter a turbulent period of history when increasingly complicated and difficult politics take place among states. More than ever, constant efforts are called for to maintain stability and promote cooperation beyond borders. The “QUAD” is welcome in this context as another initiative to institutionalize cooperative partnership between powers, if not under the UN framework.
Of course, there is a caveat: Intimate relationships can be perceived differently in the eyes of those who are excluded. The QUAD features a “free and open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP). The question is “Whose freedom? And open to whom?”
How confrontational will a FOIP be with China’s Belt and Road Initiative? Moreover, will the QUAD degenerate into an “alliance to encircle authoritarian states,” as conservative commentators willingly discuss? Could Japan, holding onto its pacifist Constitution of 1947, mitigate the looming surge of atavistic geo-political thinking that plagues the vast region from East Africa to Oceania?
The Joint Statement of March 12 emphasizes quadrilateral cooperation in the “combat” against climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. As the world faces these clear and present dangers to human security, how these four states honor these words with tangible measures will be a touchstone.
Professor of International Politics and Peace Research, Faculty of International Studies, Meiji Gakuin University.
On January 12, 2021, the Trump administration published its recently declassified U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific, which was approved in February 2018.
This declassified framework clarifies US goals in the strategic area of East Asia known as the first island chain: it will not allow China to dominate the area; will defend its allies there; and will maintain US dominance in the wider region.
The Biden administration has largely continued Trump’s Indo-Pacific strategy including through the Quad grouping, which is intended as a check on China’s rising power. The US joined the other Quad members (Japan, India and Australia) in Foreign Minister-level talks in February, and a virtual summit in March, and plans are reportedly underway for a Summit later this year.
The Biden administration views China as a “very serious challenge”. It is interested in cooperating with Beijing when possible, and competing when necessary. The Quad group fits into the latter approach. It is best understood as an evolving mechanism, designed to balance China and prevent conflict. However, it does not necessarily need to be developed into a formal security alliance, especially if China addresses the genuine insecurities that are driving the Quad members to cooperate.
Professor of International Relations at Fudan University. Founder and Director of Arms Control and Regional Security Program at Fudan University.
Image: Joyce Lee/iStock, Vitalii Tkachuk.