What is Quadrilateral (The Quad)?
The quadrilateral is a natural expression and convergence of interests between democratic countries in the Indo–Pacific region and it’s a natural stepping stone from the very productive trilateral conversations, exercises, and cooperation between India, Japan, Australia and the US.
Formation of Quad:
–> Countries that share values have an opportunity to provide alternatives to countries in the region who are seeking needed investment in their infrastructure and in their economic development.
–> China’s ‘One Belt One Road’(OBOR) initiative which aims to create the world’s largest economic platform and, along with Xi Jinping’s 20–year plan to become a superpower, is worrying other global powers, resulting into formations like Quad.
–> The concern is not merely about China’s ambitious agenda but also over the absence of an alternative force to contain it. This explains the emergence of ‘Quad’.
Strategic benefits of the QUAD:
-> Strait of Malacca is significant for trade and commerce between Indian ocean and Pacific Ocean countries. Thus, freedom of navigation is a converging interest of all Quad member.
-> Quad is expected to provide a maritime security package involve anti-piracy operations and maritime interdiction to south West Asian countries.
-> China’s expansionist policy requires a strong regional deterrent which is possible only through regional cooperation and coordination. Thus, quad is a natural choice.
-> India’s “Act east Policy” has a converging interest with the Quad, as both intended to develop rule-based regional order when comes to security or economic interests.
-> Military engagement and collaboration in humanitarian assistance/ disaster relief (HADR), joint patrols against piracy, best practices sharing, shipping and intelligence information sharing.
Economic benefits of the Quad:
1. Better market access for India in Indo-pacific region.
2. More flow of FDI to India, will increase India’s global competitiveness ranking globally.
3. Foster economic growth with better market adaptation, so more employment opportunity.
5. All these nations can help each other and other countries to move out of natural calamities.
6. Alternate funds for developing countries in Indian Ocean (IOR) region.
The Quad’s potential is likely to be limited by several internal differences.
–>The three pillars of the Indo–Pacific architecture need to work in coordination– The Quad is a crucial pillar of the peace and security architecture in the Indo–Pacific region, it needs to be supported by political (East Asia Summit) as well as the trade and economic pillar (APEC).
While all Quad participants are members of EAS, India is still not a member of APEC. This lacuna needs to be remedied.
–> India may need to enter into formal military arrangements and cooperation, even though this might bring with it the prospect of being dragged into a war not of its making.
As NATO has shown, sometimes a democratic military alliance is essential to maintain peace.
–> Washington’s indifference to the geopolitics of maritime South Asia.
It may happen that Trump’s promotion of a “free and open Indo–Pacific region” is more focused on trade, than maritime security.
–> ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is showing a new enthusiasm for naval engagement with Beijing.
With many South–East Asian states openly acknowledging China’s role in regional security and development, it seems unlikely a proposal aimed at the containment of Chinese naval power in Asia will find much support.
Key issues of common interest:
–> Key issues of common interest in the “Indo–Pacific region” were discussed, with an eye on China and the aim reaching a common ground on a “free and open” Indo–Pacific.
–> The boiling regional tension with China and Beijing’s assertiveness over the South China Sea issue, a statement from the Australian Foreign Ministry informed that freedom of navigation figured at the ‘Quad.’
–> Also, part of the discussions were proliferation threats, “including North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues, against which maximized pressure needs to be applied, ensuring freedom of navigation & maritime security in the Indo–Pacific, and countering terrorism and other issues.
Hurdles on the way:
–> The main obstacle standing in the way remains the three countries’ very different ideas of how to take on China along with, to a lesser extent, the unpredictable nature of President Donald Trump.
–> Though China’s coercive behavior has forced “like–minded democracies” to converge, it’s still an amorphous alliance with an inclusive agenda.
–> The near–term aim of the quad is not “containment” of any country (though it may certainly be perceived as such in Beijing), but to ensure that the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions remain free and open for multilateral trade and commerce.
–> The quad’ is still little more than a concept. It is not a military alliance like the NATO.
Improved prospects for India:
–> Facing a huge power deficit, India needs partnerships to balance China. New Delhi is rightly concerned about – Beijing’s use of its navy to normalize Chinese dominance of the littorals, a condition that supports Beijing’s vision of a unipolar Asia.
Many thinks that China’s maritime strategy in the Indian Ocean involves a “slow choke” of New Delhi’s geopolitical influence in its strategic backyard.
–> India’s foreign secretary S. Jaishankar has pointed out that India’s neighbors are bound to feel more reassured of India’s (as against a rapacious China’s) words if New Delhi has the economic, military and political backing of major powers in the region.
–> The Quad has the potential to secure the region against great power conflict and provide regional connectivity and trade.
The QUAD in context of India’s Act East Policy:
–> Both the Quad and Act East Policy of India serves as a counter measures to the String of Pearls theory of China.
–> The Objectives of “Act East Policy” and “Quad” policy is on similar lines. To promote economic co–operation in Indo Pacific.
–> An alliance of 4 Quad countries will mean a greater influx of trade and commerce for India which can be used to fund projects in “Act East” policy.
–> Possibility of shifting focus from pending projects with neighbors such as Myanmar–Kaladan Multi–Modal Transport Project, India–Myanmar–Thailand highway Project.
The QUAD in context of Non–Alignment Movement (NAM):
–> The original conception of non–alignment was about building strong ties with all the major powers and making independent judgments about international affairs.
–> The new alliances are endeavoring for peace specially in Indo– pacific and South Asian Region. This reminds us of ‘Peaceful Co–existence’ of Panchsheel clause.
–> The alliances would preclude the aggressions like Dokhlam crisis and would be align to ‘Mutual Non–Aggression’.
Being a Non–Alignment Champion, India can follow a middle path with paramount importance to global peace. It’s should pursue its Act East policy by engaging with ASEAN countries, RCEP members for economic goals and engaging with Quad group to increase forces connectivity and ensuring “rule of law” and “peace“ in the region without any ulterior motives.
–> Though a start has been made, which is important, much will depend on interoperability, cooperation and convergence.
–> The art of diplomacy lies in finding the right balance. The emergence of ‘Quad’ favors India. But the emergence of China is a reality India has to deal with. Hence, India might have to build bridges with their neighbour and biggest trade partners as well.