LEADERS of four important democracies of the Indo-Pacific region – the United States, Japan, Australia and India – are in Tokyo to participate in the third Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or the Quad summit. Over the years, the Quad has expanded its scope of cooperation to areas such as climate crisis, emerging technologies, space and cyber security.
Initially, Quad came into existence in 2007 as a core group during the joint response to the ‘2004 Boxing Day Tsunami’, when waves triggered by a massive earthquake slammed into the coastlines of countries ringing the Indian Ocean, killing 2,30,000 people. But the core group split in 2008, only to reemerge stronger nearly 10 years after its original grouping.
After years of destabilisation in the region, the four countries put focus back in the core group. In 2017, the reenergised Quad laid more emphasis on securing a free and open Indo-Pacific, taking joint action against terrorism, and promoting a rules-based system. Quad, also known as the ASIAN NATO, has gained more significance, with many calling it an exclusive grouping to contain China’s influence in the region. It was the former prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, who envisioned the revitalised the Quad and later called it ‘democratic security diamond’ and wasted no time in gathering support for the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” concept.
This relevant and resilient alliance has been generating healthy outcomes where all four countries have seen more trilateral and bilateral talks in recent years.
Many observers and analysts say that bonds of trust between countries, in many cases, are stronger and older. For example, vaccines researched upon in the US are being manufactured in India and partially funded by Japan while logistics and delivery across the Indo-Pacific are spearheaded by Australia and Japan. Japan’s Self-Defense Force and US forces are more aligned in terms of tactics, training, and assets. On the other hand, Australia, America and Japan’s consistent effort to re-route submarine cables away from Chinese-controlled Hong Kong and building a network through Taiwan has strengthened the Quad’s relevance in the region.
China’s complete disregard for rules-based international order and laying unlawful claims to new territories brought both Japan and India closer and both are wary of China’s expansionist activities. Apart from laying emphasis on just strategic autonomy, India has found partners to counter China’s regional primacy in terms of economic infrastructure advancements, who can help find alternate solutions to the ambitious ‘belt and road initiative (BRI)’. Moreover, China’s boastful military prowess is a common concern shared by both New Delhi and Washington and both understand the urgent need to rope in more regional partners.
For India, rebooting of the Quad is not limited to countering China, but also ensuring freedom of navigation and trade, and promoting connectivity, economic development. Moreover, the Quad with India and Japan as the key participants will need to keep the momentum up and deepen its ongoing activities, including regularizing the Quad summit and other ministerial meetings.