What is QUAD? Significance, Objective, Opportunities and Concern for India

What is QUAD? Significance, Objective, Opportunities and Concern for India

Why In News?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending the first-ever in-person summit of the four leaders of the Quadrilateral Framework (Quad) in the Indo-Pacific on 24th September in Washington.

U.S. President Joseph Biden had convened a virtual Quad summit with Mr. Modi and his Australian and Japanese counterparts, Scott Morrison and Yoshihide Suga, in March. 

There has also been some surprise over the emergence last week of the new trilateral, the Australia-U.K.-U.S. AUKUS Indo-Pacific grouping, which could overshadow the geo-strategic aspects of the Quad, with questions raised about whether the Quad will become “Quad-lite”, dealing mainly with global social issues such as climate change, COVID-19 vaccines and supply chain resilience, while the U.S. allies, who are treaty partners, work on the stronger strategic sphere together.

What’s on the menu for first In-Person Quad summit?

Free and open Indo-Pacific: While the first iteration of the Quad grouping in 2005-2009, formed in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami, focused on friendly maritime exercises and HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief), its reprise in 2017 has focused much more on the threat to the Indo-Pacific maritime sphere, mainly from unilateral actions by China on the South China Sea and other disputes. 

Connectivity and infrastructure projects: The 2017 Quad meetings of officials followed that of the Belt and Road Initiative, and the grouping was seen as an economic challenge to China as well, as Quad statements promised joint connectivity projects and transparent infrastructure funding for countries in the region in danger of being “debt-trapped”.

Countering COVID-19: During the March summit, the Quad countries announced plans for a “vaccine initiative”, which involved the production in India of a billion Johnson and Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccines with U.S. funding and technology, and Australian and Japanese distribution in the Indo-Pacific countries needing it the most, by the end of 2022. 

Critical technologies and resilient supply chains: The Quad also set up a working group on critical and emerging-technology “to facilitate cooperation on international standards and innovative technologies of the future”. This will involve discussions on ensuring consensus on what kind of 5G networks the Quad countries will promote, on data security and free flow, as well as on building supply chains that have been destroyed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, as countries withheld crucial material needed by others due to shortages within

Climate change: This is another of the “working group” silos set up in March that is due to be discussed by the leaders. U.S. special envoy John Kerry has been on a whirlwind tour around the world, including India, trying to raise various countries’ climate ambitions. The U.S. will be keen to see some commitments coming out of the Quad summit, ahead of the next U.N. Climate Change Conference, COP 26, in Glasgow in November. 

What is Quad

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) is the informal strategic dialogue between India, USA, Japan and Australia with a shared objective to ensure and support a “free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region.

Following the Indian Ocean tsunami, India, Japan, Australia, and the US created an informal alliance to collaborate on disaster relief efforts. 

In 2007, then PM of Japan, Shinzo Abe, formalized the alliance, as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or the Quad. However, the idea couldn’t move ahead with Australia pulling out of it, apparently due to Chinese pressure.

In December 2012, Shinzo Abe again floated the concept of Asia’s “Democratic Security Diamond” involving Australia, India, Japan and the US to safeguard the maritime commons from the Indian Ocean to the western Pacific.

In November 2017, India, the US, Australia and Japan gave shape to the long-pending "Quad" Coalition to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence (especially China).

Quad is criticized by China as Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Objectives of the Quad

According to the Spirit of the Quad, the group’s primary objectives include maritime security, combating the Covid-19 crisis, especially vis-à-vis vaccine diplomacy, addressing the risks of climate change, creating an ecosystem for investment in the region and boosting technological innovation.
  • Quad members have also indicated a willingness to expand the partnership through a so-called Quad Plus that would include South Korea, New Zealand, and Vietnam amongst others.

Opportunities for India Under Quad Arrangement

Checkmating China
  • The maritime space is a lot more important to China than engaging in opportunistic land grab attempts in the Himalayas.
  • A huge chunk of Chinese trade happens via the Indian oceanic routes that pass through maritime chokepoints.
  • In the event of any Chinese aggression on borders, India by cooperation with Quad countries can potentially disrupt Chinese trade.
  • Hence, unlike in the continental sphere where India seems facing a ‘nutcracker like situation’ due to China-Pakistan collusion, the maritime sphere is wide open to India to undertake coalition building, rule setting, and other forms of strategic exploration.

Emerging as a Net Security Provider
  • There is a growing great power interest in the maritime sphere, especially with the arrival of the concept of ‘Indo-Pacific’. For instance, many european countries have recently released their Indo-Pacific strategies.
  • With India, located right at the centre of the Indo-Pacific geopolitical imagination can realise the vision of a ‘broader Asia’ that can extend its influence away from geographical boundaries.
  • Moreover, India can build around collective action in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, monitoring shipping for search and rescue or anti-piracy operations, infrastructure assistance to climatically vulnerable states, connectivity initiatives and similar activities.
  • Further, India with Quad countries can check imperialist policies of China in Indian ocean region and ensure Security and growth for all in the region.

Concerns for India

Pulled into ambit of Indo-Pacific: The U.S.’s focus on the west Pacific due to aggressive Chinese maritime activity gradually pulled India into the ambit of the Indo-Pacific that views the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean as an integrated geopolitical space.

India’s Security concerns ignored: By affiliating with the U.S.-led maritime coalition, India ignored the principal areas of its security concerns in northern borders. Recently with border clashes, China has given India a rude reminder that India’s security concerns lie in its northern borders, not the west Pacific.

Divergence with US: New Delhi and Washington see eye to eye on maritime strategy, but not on what to do on the Asian mainland.

Structural Issues due to QUAD’s pivot to US: The Quad has a core structural problem as well in that it pivots around the U.S. The U.S. is a super-power with global interests, but it is also self-centered in defining and pursuing its interests, even as its policies experience major shifts due to government change or domestic lobbies

Doesn’t have strategic vision: Despite rhetoric relating to the promotion of a ‘rules-based’ world order (the rules being most frequently violated by the U.S. itself), the Quad neither shares a strategic vision nor is it animated by a shared agenda. 


China’s Territorial Claims: China claims that it has historical ownership over nearly the entire region of South China Sea, which gives it the right to manufacture islands. However, the International Court of Arbitration rejected the claim in 2016.

China’s Closeness to ASEAN: The ASEAN countries also have a well-knit relationship with China. The Regional Cooperation Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a recent example of China’s increasing influence over ASEAN nations.

Economic Power of China: Considering the economic might of China and the dependence of Quad nations like Japan and Australia on China, the Quad nations cannot afford to have strained relations with it.

Convergence among Quad Nations: The nations in the Quad grouping have different aspirations, aims at balancing their own interest. Therefore, coherence in the vision of Quad nation as a grouping is absent.

Way Forward

Need For Clear Vision: The Quad nations need to better explain the Indo-Pacific Vision in an overarching framework with the objective of advancing everyone’s economic and security interests.
  • This will reassure the littoral States that the Quad will be a factor for regional benefit, and a far cry from Chinese allegations that it is some sort of a military alliance.
Expanding Quad: India has many other partners in the Indo-Pacific, therefore India should pitch for countries like Indonesia, Singapore to be invited to join in the future.

Need for a Maritime Doctrine: India should develop a comprehensive vision on the Indo-Pacific which would ideate on the current and future maritime challenges, consolidate its military and non-military tools, engage its strategic partners.

Reference: TH

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