ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Analysing India’s Interests in the QUAD

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The QUAD or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is an alliance between India, Japan, Australia, and the United States (US). A grouping created as a tool for relief and rescue (disaster management) during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the QUAD has now re-emerged as a security dialogue in the Indo-Pacific against all odds. As an alliance of democracies, the QUAD’s primary objective is ensuring a free, inclusive, and open Indo-Pacific. The pitch to formalise QUAD came from the then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with his speech titled “Confluence of Two Seas,” altering the significance of the Indo-Pacific region. The group initially met on the sidelines during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit, 2007. However, the dialogue was dismantled after the withdrawal of Australia due to Chinese pressure. Japan’s idea of a democratic security diamond reignited the desire to regroup QUAD. The re-emergence of QUAD marks a shift in rethinking the growing Chinese influence in the region.

Apart from pursuing common challenges like freedom of navigation and rules-based international order, each of the QUAD members has interests in the grouping. It is a forum for India, Japan, and Australia to counter Chinese hostilities in the Indo-Pacific region. For the US, challenging China’s hegemony in the Indo-Pacific and upholding democratic values at the global level is of primary interest. China is the common factor behind the grouping, even though the QUAD does not explicitly mention it. The members assert that the QUAD is a grouping meant to deepen diplomatic and economic ties, but it is an unstated fact that the QUAD is a strategic counter to China.

China has criticised the QUAD, accusing the US of trying to form an “Asian NATO” even though the QUAD members have no defence obligations or pact between them. The joint statement titled the “Spirit of QUAD” specified its objectives after the first formal summit in 2021, “we bring diverse perspectives and are united in a shared vision for the free and open Indo-Pacific. We strive for a free, open, inclusive, healthy region, anchored by democratic values and unconstrained by coercion.” Beijing’s reaction to the grouping, including diplomatic protests and even criticising Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan over the “Cold War mentality” of the QUAD has brought much significance to the dialogue.

The agenda of the 2021 virtual QUAD summit was centred on the pandemic and vaccine logistics along with climate change and cyber security. The QUAD vaccine partnership was formed to ensure equitable vaccine distribution worldwide. This partnership relies on American technology, India’s manufacturing capability, Japanese finance, and Australian logistics capacity to donate 1 billion doses globally, countering China’s vaccine diplomacy. The QUAD infrastructure group will coordinate regional infrastructural needs to ensure quality infrastructure. The summit also mentions the group’s commitment towards climate change, supply chain and work on renewable energy, emission targets, and climate resilience. The members discussed developing green shipping networks and clean hydrogen partnerships. The summit reflected the broad approach of the QUAD to tackle regional and global challenges, and the project itself was more than an anti-China coalition.

The first in-person QUAD summit held in Washington saw the attendance of President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and Prime Minister Suga. The QUAD is committed to countering terrorism, building a resilient supply chain, investments and infrastructure development, technological development, cyber security, and education. Prime Minister Modi said that India’s participation in the QUAD would ensure a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific. In pursuit of providing a free and open Indo-Pacific, the four members participated in the Malabar naval exercises and 2+2 defence dialogues.

The recently held QUAD summit in Tokyo opened up new avenues for the members with new faces of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the newly elected Australian Prime Minister Anthony Norman Albanese. The maritime initiative of the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness offers maritime surveillance to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific as well as equips the countries to respond to humanitarian assistance and disasters. The QUAD fellowship will sponsor students from all the four member countries for education and research in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) areas. The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) was inaugurated in Tokyo during the summit, which aims to deepen economic and trade engagements in the region and achieve the QUAD objective of building a resilient supply-chain network. The IPEF operates on four pillars—a connected, resilient, clean, and fair economy. It is seen as an alternative to China’s regional economic dominance. The Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure strengthens the Indo-Pacific infrastructure for risk reduction during disasters.

Among the QUAD members, India is the only country that shares land borders with China and has had military confrontations with Beijing. This fact completely alters New Delhi’s strategy concerning China and provides a strong foundation for the QUAD. For India, the QUAD can be significant in terms of permanent membership to the United Nations Security Council, emerging as a major blue economy, upgrading its defence technology, and becoming a substantial power in the post-pandemic global order. It is a strategic alliance for New Delhi. India has so far managed to balance its relationship with the QUAD along with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Russia–India–China (RIC), and Brazil–Russia–India–China–South Africa (BRICS), in which China is a member. Because of New Delhi’s close ties with Moscow and trade relations with Beijing, it has been excluded from the trilateral alliance between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the US that provides Australia with nuclear-powered submarines to boost its naval capacity in the Indo-Pacific.

India succeeded diplomatically when the joint statement from the Tokyo summit accommodated its neutral stance on the ongoing Russia–Ukraine conflict. India should strategically navigate the QUAD so that it does not damage its relationship with Russia and China. As long as China continues with its expansionist hegemonic policies, the QUAD will likely expand to balance China’s growing influence. But it is also crucial that the QUAD operates as more than an anti-China coalition and addresses the global, regional, and maritime challenges in the Indo-Pacific.

Lalitha S, Karamala Areesh Kumar

Bengaluru

 

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Updated On : 31st Jul, 2022
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