[GS Paper 2 – Global Groupings, Bilateral Agreements involving India]
Context – The leaders of four countries — India, the U.S., Australia, and Japan — are meeting for the second in-person summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad in Tokyo.
The ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis has triggered geopolitical shifts, driven up global inflation, and affected supply chains amid a slew of western sanctions on Moscow. In March this year, Quad leaders discussed the situation in Ukraine in an unscheduled virtual meeting called by US President Joe Biden.
- The Quad is an informal multilateral grouping of India, the U.S., Australia, and Japan aimed at cooperation for a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
- The region, composed of two oceans and spanning multiple continents, is a hub of maritime trade and naval establishments.
- While not stated explicitly by the leaders, a major basis for the grouping is to check China’s growing influence in the region.
- After the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 wreaked havoc in the region now called the Indo-Pacific, India stepped up its rescue efforts.
- India provided assistance to its maritime neighbours: Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia. Soon, the disaster relief effort was joined by three other naval powers — the U.S., Australia and Japan.
- Then US President George W. Bush announced that the four countries would set up an international coalition to coordinate the massive effort. While the charge of the rescue operations was handed over to the United Nations shortly after, it led to the birth of a new framework: the Quadrilateral or Quad.
Development of present day QUAD
- Then Japanese PM Shinzo Abe had been promoting the idea of an “arc of prosperity and freedom”. This brought the Quad countries closer together, further developed the concept and discussed it with then PM Manmohan Singh during a summit in December 2006.
- The 2007 Indo-U.S. Malabar naval exercises also saw the partial involvement of Japan, Australia and Singapore.
- The exercises and coordination were seen by China as an attempt to encircle it, which termed the grouping as trying to build “an Asian NATO”.
- The Quad lost momentum post the 2007 meeting as the effort “dissipated amidst member leadership transitions.
- The grouping was only revived an entire decade later in 2017, at a time when all four countries had revised their assessment of the China challenge; and India had witnessed the Doklam standoff.
- Leaders of all four countries met in the Philippines for the ‘India-Australia-Japan-U.S.’ dialogue, not referred to as a Quad dialogue to avoid the notion of a “gang-up”.
Objectives of QUAD
- Coming together to foster a free and open Indo-Pacific formed the bedrock of cooperation.
- Now it commits to promoting the free, open, rules-based order, rooted in international law and undaunted by coercion, to bolster security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
- Emphasis was laid on “rule of law, territorial integrity, freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes, and democratic values” in the region.
Various initiatives of QUAD
- Quad leaders launched the Quad Vaccine Initiative (QVI) with the aim of manufacturing and distributing at least a billion COVID-19 vaccines for the Asia region by the end of 2022.
- As for emerging technologies, the four countries aimed to work on the development and diversification of 5G telecommunications.
- They aim for creation of supply chains for critical minerals and technologies for making semiconductors used in smartphones, another area where China is a leader.
- Quad nations had also agreed to build joint connectivity projects and transparent infrastructure funding for countries in the region.
- The Quad also created a working group for combating climate change which would oversee efforts to foster green shipping by decarbonising maritime supply chains and promoting the use of clean hydrogen.
Future Initiatives – QUAD
- The Leaders will review the progress of Quad initiatives and Working Groups, identify new areas of cooperation and provide strategic guidance and vision for future collaboration.
- The Quad summit is expected to discuss the Russian war in Ukraine, and the impact of three months of Western sanctions.
- The US also unveiled the ‘Indo-Pacific Economic Framework’ (IPEF) which is a programme to bind countries in the region more closely through common standards.
- Quad members also launched a maritime monitoring plan to curb illegal fishing in the Indo-Pacific.
Challenges and Way Forward
- How to deal with China thus remains the central question for Quad. Each Quad member views the Chinese threat differently.
- For Australia too, trade was the biggest issue until the recent establishment of a Chinese military base in the Solomon Islands brought a new dimension.
- Japan and India are closest to China, and both face belligerent Chinese claims to territory. The security build-up of QUAD is also yet to materialize.