The foreign ministers of the Quad grouping of India, the US, Australia and Japan vowed to work vigorously to achieve the grouping’s shared vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and collectively deal with common threats such as terrorism. At the Quad Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Melbourne, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Australia’s Marise Payne reaffirmed their support to principles of openness, protection of national sovereignty and observance of rules and fair play. They also denounced the use of terrorist proxies for cross-border terrorism, urging countries to work together to eliminate terrorist safe havens, disrupt terrorist networks, infrastructure and financial channels that sustain them. Discussions centred around issues of cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and the progress made so far… as well as current geopolitical events.
- The quadrilateral security dialogue includes Japan, India, United States and Australia.
- All four nations find a common ground of being the democratic nations and common interests of unhindered maritime trade and security.
The grouping traces its genesis to 2004 when the four countries came together to coordinate relief operations in the aftermath of the tsunami.
- It then met for the first time in 2007 on the sidelines of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.
- The intention was to enhance maritime cooperation between the four nations.
Significance of the grouping:
- Quad is an opportunity for like-minded countries to share notes and collaborate on projects of mutual interest.
- Members share a vision of an open and free Indo-Pacific. Each is involved in development and economic projects as well as in promoting maritime domain awareness and maritime security.
- It is one of the many avenues for interaction among India, Australia, Japan and the US and should not be seen in an exclusive context.
- There is a general understanding that the Quad would not take on a military dimension against any country. The strategic community in China, nevertheless, had branded it an emerging “Asian NATO”.
- Notably, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s “Confluence of Two Seas” address to the Indian Parliament gave a fresh impetus to the Quad concept. This recognised the economic rise of India.
Need for setting up of the Quad:
- The move to set up the quadrilateral comes in the backdrop of growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea.
- It has also raised concerns regarding freedom of trade and navigation through the waters of the South and East China seas.
- China’s aggressive posturing along land borders with countries like India and Bhutan.
Significance of Quad:
- Free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large.
- Tackle common challenges of terrorism and proliferation
- Upholding the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific and respect for international law, freedom of navigation and overflight.
- Cooperation “to curtail DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)’s nuclear and missile programmes and unlawful acts.
- Involving the U.S. and Japan in development projects in South Asia will yield the necessary finances.
Significance for India:
- By joining the quad India has taken a significant turn in its policy for the subcontinent.
- It gives New Delhi a powerful platform to advance its interests in East Asia, coordinate strategies with powerful friends and add more strength to its Act East initiative.
- The geostrategic term “Indo-Pacific” as opposed to “Asia-Pacific” has been gaining currency.
- It will deepen India’s ties with US, Australia and Japan with benefits in diplomatic leverage and sharing of burden in defence
- Working with US and its allies in the Asia-Pacific will provide New Delhi significant leverage in shaping US policies in Afghanistan-Pakistan to the benefit of India.
QUAD a reflection of multi-polar foreign policy:
Though India is part of Quad, it is not a formal alliance or any security architecture against China. Moreover, alliances are not even feasible in this globalized world based on complex interdependence. But QUAD membership reinforces India’s multi-polar foreign policy as:
- India is associated with several forums such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), BRICS etc.
- The other members of these grouping face some sought of strategic competition from USA, but India has managed well to maintain strategic autonomy which is a pillar of multi polar world order.
- China’s assertion in South China Sea (SCS) compromises freedom of navigation. Through QUAD India seeks to reassert rule based world order to counter China’s growing power and assertion.
- Democratic, Cooperative and Peacekeeping endeavour: The QUAD initiative is group of four largest and powerful democracies in the world which values democratic, peaceful, rule based international order.
- India held that the Quad was more about sharing democratic experiences than a security arrangement directed at China.
- Emergence of Indo-pacific: USA under its pivot to China policy held Indo-Pacific region is now world’s most strategic location.
- Different nations are seeking to project their strategic power in the region.
- India’s membership to QUAD should be seen in this light as a counterbalancing initiative to secure its own neighbourhood.
- Emergence of new players like the U.S. and Japan has only increased multiple regional rivalries in the region.
- While the quadrilateral grouping will bring developmental projects, it will considerably erode India’s primacy in the neighbourhood.
- India had impeded Chinese demand for a diplomatic mission in Bhutan, now it would be a challenge if US pursues the same.
- India objected to Chinese naval presence in Sri Lanka. Now India will not be able to object to U.S. naval warships and Japanese presence there.
- India while pursuing aspirations in global alliances falls short of its regional commitments. New Delhi has changed its position on Hambantota several times, ambivalent on tackling political issues in Nepal, Maldives crisis, Myanmar Rohingya issue etc.
- Strategic analysts argue that India is dragging itself into the US-China rivalry.
- QUAD is, through its intent, a label, a geostrategic vision and a foreign policy instrument for India to balance China via global networking. When a tipping point is reached, it provides scope for the forging of an alliance amongst the world’s most formidable militaries.
- Until then, the QUAD’s future as a platform for multilateral engagement is secure.
- Owing to India’s presence and impact in South Asia the neighbourhood first policy should not take backseat.