The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

Maritime alliances among the Quad members are reshaping the Indo-Pacific security structure. Through a variety of military and commercial initiatives, the Quad is influencing and revitalising the Indo-Pacific region.

Sheila A. Smith of the Council on Foreign Relations writes: “The Quad, officially the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, is a group of four countries: the United States, Australia, India, and Japan. Maritime cooperation among them began after the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. But today the countries—all democracies and vibrant economies—work on a far broader agenda, which includes tackling security, economic, and health issues.”

The Quad’s goal is to establish a free and open Indo-Pacific. The Quad could be the decisive factor in shaping the future of Asian politics.

Ostensibly, the Quad‘s raison d’etre is China and its threat to the status quo. Washington hosted the inaugural Quad summit in September 2021. This was followed by another gathering on March 4, to reaffirm its commitment to the Indo-Pacific and to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Again Sheila A. Smith writes: “in March 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden convened a virtual Quad meeting attended by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. They formed working groups on COVID-19 vaccines, climate change, and technological innovation and supply-chain resilience.”

In March of last year, a declaration laying out the “spirit of the Quad” noted: “We bring diverse perspectives and are united in a shared vision for the free and open Indo-Pacific.” Evidently, the objective is to build a region that is transparent, embraces free trade and economic liberalism, and embraces a region free of conflict, if that is even possible.

Since 2020, tensions between China and India have escalated, with Chinese military forces developing along the Ladakh border. The Quad arrangement has bolstered India’s approach to China. In a meeting in February, the United States released a lengthy statement on its broadening strategic collaboration with India.

In an interview, Maj. Gen. Dhruv Katoch (ret.), formerly with the Indian army, claimed that “While the Quad as of now is not a security organisation, it has the potential to quickly metamorphose into one.”

Since its inception, the United States has played a primary role the Quad. According to President Biden, the United States “envisions an Indo-Pacific that is open, connected, prosperous, resilient, and secure—and [we] are ready to work together with Quad partners to achieve it.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin highlighted Chinese military exercises along India’s border, and suggested that America should stand behind its partners who are protecting their territorial integrity against Beijing’s “war tactics” and “aggressive approach.” Austin also highlighted that Delhi’s growing military capability and technological prowess can be a stabilising force in the region. All of this could enable India to challenge China in shaping the future of Asia.

Japan’s role is intriguing. Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed that Australia, India, Japan, and the United States construct a ‘Diamond’ to protect the maritime region stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Western Pacific. Japan’s ultimate aims are to deal with the North Korea nuclear dilemma, China’s rapid military modernization, and resolve the ongoing dispute over the Senkaku Islands which is can’t tackle alone.

The expansion of military cooperation between Japan and the other Quad members has been most notable. Indeed, for Japan, relations among the Quad members have emerged as an important trade and investment outlet over the last 20 years. In 2019, Australia ranked fifth among Japan’s trading partners. Furthermore, India has become an important market for both Japanese exports and foreign aid.

Australia has a lot riding on the Quad. In many ways, it has tailored its foreign policy around the arrangement. Australia has also joined AUKUS, another U.S.-led security pact. Australia has also committed to spending $500 million by 2025 to support a U.S.-led effort to develop cheap and sustainable energy throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

India-Australia relations have blossomed over the years with 17% of products being imported from Australia to India through coastal routes. With $22 billion in bilateral trade between the two nations, India ranks among Australia’s top trading partners. Projects Sagarmala and Mausam are operations carried out under India’s Act East Policy. Parallel to this, Japanese foreign direct investments have also surged under the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership, making substantive progress in conjunction with the Australian Pacific Step-up initiative.

The Quad is in a unique position to help meet Asia’s expanding demands for funding and infrastructure. Various members are launching initiatives including maritime security collaborations that would allow member nations to monitor illicit fishing, follow ‘black ships,’ and operationalise other tactical-level action plans.

A media statement released by the White House claims that the world has entered a “decisive decade that holds considerable promise and historic obstacles for the Indo-Pacific, the American role in the region must be more effective and enduring than ever.” Indeed, a commitment has been made to accelerate collaboration and coordination on international standards and creative technologies for the future.

Anmol Rattan Singh is pursuing his MA in Public Policy and Governance from Centre for Federal Studies, Public Policies and Governance from Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi.

Tejvir Bawa is a graduate in political science from Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi. His areas of interest are energy security, military history and war studies.