Quadrilateral security Dialogue
QUAD, also known as the Quadrilateral security dialogue, has been making rounds in the news a lot lately. It is widely portrayed as a strategic military alliance between its member nations, India, United States of America, Japan and Australia. While that is true, it does not describe the partnership in its entirety.
The idea originally came to existence with a humanitarian angle, following a massive tsunami in the Indo-Pacific which resulted in the death of around 230,000 people and also massive amounts of economic loss. The international coalition was set up to help those in distress, restore power and communication lines. This maritime cooperation brought India closer to Japan, US and Australia-who were already strong allies- and led to the foundation of the dialogue.
The dialogue was formally initiated in 2007 by the then-Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe with the support of the then-US Vice President Dick Cheney, then-Australian Prime Minister John Howard and then-Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. It led to the famous naval exercise, the Malabar Exercise, where the four nations displayed their naval prowess. However, the dialogue fell apart in 2008 with the decision of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to withdraw. The other three countries still continued the joint military exercises.
The Partnership came back to life in 2017. This time the main objectives were to maintain a peaceful Indo-Pacific region to allow free trade movement and to counter Chinese aggression. The dialogue transformed since its inception, does not only have a military angle anymore. It also aims to bolster economic partnership among member nations and the nations of the Indo-Pacific.
The leaders of the four member nations held the first In-person QUAD Summit on September 24 in Washington DC. On the agenda was the COVID-19 Pandemic, climate change, promoting new technologies, outer space, promoting high-end infrastructure and establishing maritime cooperation. Especially in light of the COVID-19 Crisis, the member nations have pledged to donate 1.2 billion vaccine doses. While in an effort to promote development of technology, the quad nations have agreed to create a resilient supply chain of semiconductors. The world is experiencing a shortage of semiconductor chips of whom China is the primary producer and hence various industries are facing the brunt. Semiconductor chips are an integral part of the EV sector in the auto industry which is a growing trend as the world moves towards renewable energy. Car manufacturers have cut down production significantly due to this hold up in the supply chain.
QUAD aims to counter China’s rise as an economic superpower. It is well known that China is the manufacturing hub of the world. Electronics, car manufacturing , textiles, furniture, toys, China dominates in manufacturing goods in all these industries. Although India is the largest manufacturer of pharmaceuticals, it imports most of the API’s (Advanced Pharmaceutical Ingredients) from China which are essential in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals. Even before the pandemic started, China manufactured half of the world’s masks. The world’s reliance on China for essential supplies such as pharmaceuticals has highlighted the need to reduce dependence on it and create an integrated supply chain.
The member nations have indicated strong commitment to the alliance as they have not restricted their partnership only to military and trade ties. They have gone as far as sharing intellectual property and intelligence, besides introducing a QUAD fellowship program where 25 students from each of the four countries shall be sponsored to pursue advanced degrees in STEM in the US.
While all the member nations have the common motive of countering Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific, they have ulterior motives too. The US wants to retain its position as a superpower, projecting an image of strength in the international arena especially in light of its withdrawal from Afghanistan and the ruckus that followed. India wants to establish itself as a naval power and to counter China for its aggression on the LAC. It also promotes India’s Act East Policy. Japan has been wary of China’s aggression in the South China Sea and its extensive naval presence. Australia aims to become a larger military power and establish closer ties with India, simultaneously strengthening existing ties with the US and Japan. No wonder, then, that China sees this alliance with immense suspicion and has labelled it as the “Asian NATO”.
The QUAD should further involve the other nations in the Indo-Pacific and maybe go as far to make them member nations as they are important stakeholders in the region. It will also help prevent them from falling into China’s Debt Trap Diplomacy, where they lend money to small countries and when they are unable to repay the loan, they acquire the assets the money was loaned for as leverage.
QUAD is surely an important alliance and one must closely watch the developments as it will surely have an impact on the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific.