Quad

GS 2 : INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS:Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Introduction 

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) is the informal strategic dialogue between India, USA, Japan and Australia with a shared objective to ensure and support a “free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region.

Recently in News:

  • It is reported that the second Ministerial meeting of the four countries under the Quad will be held in Japan.

History:

  • The idea of Quad was first mooted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007.
  • Idea couldn’t move ahead with Australia pulling out of it, apparently due to Chinese pressure.
  • In December 2012, Shinzo Abe again floated the concept of Asia’s “Democratic Security Diamond” involving Australia, India, Japan and the US.
    • To safeguard the maritime commons from the Indian Ocean to the western Pacific.
  • In November 2017, India, the US, Australia and Japan gave shape to the long-pending “Quad” Coalition.
    • To keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence (especially China).

Evolution:

  • Global financial crisis was still lurking in the shadows as America continued to enjoy its ‘unipolar moment’.
  • There was no clearly enunciated concept or proposed structures, much less joint understandings.
  • China’s reaction to the idea of four like-minded countries establishing a plurilateral platform was, prima facie, intriguing.
    • The Chinese labelled it as an Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
    • Years later that the real reason for China’s hyperreaction was out of concern.
    • Such a grouping would out China’s plans for naval expansion by focusing on the Indo-Pacific maritime space.
    • China was hoping that its naval build-up might slip under the radar.
      • Americans were distracted by continental challenges including Russia, Afghanistan and Iran, and would not look sea-ward.
  • Once the idea of Quad 1.0 had died down-
    • China gained in confidence to reveal its hand.
    • Advanced a new claim the Nine-Dash Line in the South China Sea.
    • Then China undertook the rapid kind of warship building. (activity reminiscent of Wilhelmine Germany before 1914)
    • It built its first overseas base in Djibouti.
    • It started systematically to explore the surface and sub-surface environment in the Indian Ocean beyond the Malacca Straits.
  • This entire activity was coordinated by a Central Leading Small Group for Protecting Maritime Rights and Interests, established in 2012.
  • Once again brought the four countries onto the same page and given a second chance to the Quad.
    • The manner of China’s dismissal of the Arbitral Award.
    • In the dispute with the Philippines on the South China Sea.
    • Its brazen militarisation of the islands after its President had publicly pronounced to the contrary.

Significance:

  • To share notes and collaborate on projects of mutual interest.
  • Vision of an open and free Indo-Pacific.
    • in development and economic projects
    • in promoting maritime domain awareness
    • In maritime security.
  • Is one of the many avenues for interaction among India, Australia, Japan and the US.
  • There are also common references to
    • the creation of a free,open and inclusive regional architecture
    • rules of the road
    • freedom of navigation
    • over-flight
    • ASEAN centrality.

Plurilateral mechanism:

  • Chinese are skilled at obfuscation.
    • They will, perhaps, endeavour to conflate the Quad with the Indo-Pacific vision.
    • link both to the so-called China Containment Theory.
  • The Quad is a plurilateral mechanism between countries that share interest on specific matters.
    • Entire focus on the Indo-Pacific makes the Quad a maritime rather than a land-based grouping.
    • Raising questions whether the cooperation extends to the Asia-Pacific and Eurasian regions.
  • In 2016, China itself established a Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan.
  • More recently earlier this year, another one with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal.

At the time of Global Pandemic:

  • The four countries are navigating through more turbulent waters.
  • The global pandemic and the faltering global economy are taking a toll on the region’s growth and prosperity.
  • The two major Pacific powers (China and America), are moving into a more adversarial phase of their relationship.
  • China in all four countries is different from what it used to be in 2007.
  • The meeting itself will signal to China that assertive or aggressive behaviour is not going to derail this mechanism.
  • Needless provocation of China should be avoided.
  • There is no gain in actions that anger the Chinese with no commensurate benefit to the others.
  • In a recent address to the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), spoke about 
    • making sure that all the countries were moving at the same speed.
    • a plurilateral mechanism should also serve national interest.
    • suggested that other countries might be invited to join in the future.
      • India has many other partners in the Indo-Pacific.

Way Forward

  • Need to better explain that the Indo-Pacific Vision is an overarching framework.
    • discussed in a transparent manner
    • with the objective of advancing everyone’s economic and security interests.
  • The forthcoming Ministerial meeting will be an opportunity 
    • to define the idea and chart a future path.
  • A positive agenda built around collective action in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
  • Monitoring shipping for search and rescue or anti-piracy operations.
  • Infrastructure assistance to climatically vulnerable states.
  • Connectivity initiatives and similar activities
    • will re-assure the littoral States that the Quad will be a factor for regional benefit.
  • India should develop a comprehensive vision on the Indo-Pacific 
    • which would ideate on the maritime challenges.
    • consolidate its military and non-military tools.
    • engage its strategic partners.
  • An outreach to the Indian Ocean littoral states is especially important.

Conclusion         

A ‘broader Asia’ that broke away geographical boundaries is now beginning to take on a distinct form. It is the right time to realise this dream.

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