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Quad Summit - Priorities and Challenges (10 March 2021)

Quad Summit - Priorities and Challenges (10 March 2021)

Context:

  • Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will be participating, along with Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison and Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga and President of U.S.A. Joseph R. Biden, in the first Leaders’ Summit of the Quadrilateral Framework, being held virtually on 12th March 2021.

Background:

  • Last month, the foreign ministers of the four countries held a virtual meeting, in which they agreed to work towards a “free and open Indo-Pacific” region while strongly opposing any attempts by Beijing to alter the status quo in the East and South China seas by force.

  • The Quad has met regularly at the working and foreign ministers level and a meeting at the leaders level will be held for the first time.

Summary of the Debate

Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue):

  • It is the informal strategic dialogue between India, USA, Japan and Australia.

  • Objective: To ensure and support a “Free, Open and Prosperous” Indo-Pacific region.

  • 2007: The idea of Quad was first mooted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007, but due to Chinese pressure, Australia pulled out of it and the idea couldn’t move ahead.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Key areas to be discussed in the Summit:

  • The leaders will talk about regional and global matters of shared interest but specifically about the threat from china.

  • They will talk about efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic and discuss opportunities for collaboration and ensuring that the Indo-Pacific region gets equitable access to safe and affordable vaccines.

  • They will exchange views on contemporary challenges such as resilient supply chains, emerging and critical technologies, maritime security and climate change but most importantly, they will discuss practical areas of cooperation towards maintaining a free open and inclusive indo-pacific region.

Significance and the relevant of the Quad framework:

  • Shifting of Power: At a time when the center of gravity of global economics is shifting to the Indo-Pacific, where Indo-pacific as a construct is being accepted from Europe to the Oceania, we are looking at a dramatic recalibration of geopolitical realities in front of us.

  • India's centrality: India has faced Chinese territorial expansionism right since the war of 1962 and also has the most serious ongoing standoff with china. So, India's centrality in quad is very much a fact.

  • Chinese dominance:  This is a larger maritime space which at the moment lacks institutional architecture, it lacks a security architecture and that is the reason why a country like china dominating the discourse and also bullying countries across the spectrum be it Australia, ASEAN countries, India, Japan, etc. The Quad will counter the Chinese dominance in the region.

  • Other stakeholders: It can influence other nations from ASEAN and Europe to gradually stand up against any illogical claims by China like the South-China Sea dispute.

  • India's role in global supply chain: India's role in the global health crisis and in the global supply chain when it comes to pharmaceuticals has been widely appreciated and that is something where it now finances can come from other countries, from supporting countries, from like-minded countries, that would not only be good for Indian pharmaceutical industry but also for the larger global good. India can leverage the strengths that other parties bring to the table.

Quad members concerns about China:

All the four Quad members are having serious problems with China.

  • India:

    • India has been facing the most serious problems. The Chinese have been having a standoff with us for several months and we have an ongoing dispute over the border which is called the line of actual control.

  • Japan:

  • Japan is very concerned about China's expansionism in the South China Sea and its claims to the Senkaku Island.

  • Australia:

    • Australia has been slapped with sanctions by china and is having a multiplicity of problems with that country.

    • If the Quad had been lying in limbo till 2017, it was because of the fact that the Australians were not keen that this organization should have any momentum but the Chinese have been bullying the Australians particularly, on trade issues and threatening them with all kinds of retaliate reactions..

    • Australians have been very worried also about China's policy in the technological sphere because cyber warfare is something that the Chinese have perfected and they have unleashed it on the Australians. So, now far from being rather distant and detached towards Quad, the Australians took part in the military exercises which were held in November last year and which involved all the four Quad members. So, things have changed as far as Australia's approach towards China is concerned.

  • USA:

    • The United States is concerned about a whole host of issues such as China's human rights violations in the western part of that country about Hongkong , about Taiwan and about the manner in which the Chinese are threatening US strategic interests in the entire Indo-Pacific region.

How Quad has been gaining momentum?

  • The whole idea of Quad germinated as far back as 2007 in the first iteration and then it sort of lost momentum very early on because the idea was that let's not gang up together and annoy the Chinese.

  • Now, in 2017, it got resurrected but since then we had seen gradual move towards issues on infrastructure development, on infrastructure financing, on how the four nations can work together but it was happening at a lower level.

  • There have been a lot of developments over the last few years, but this is one development perhaps which marks a turning point in the evolution of the idea of Quad in the idea of the Indo-Pacific as well as the larger balance of power in the region.

  • The Quad used to be known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue but is now being known as the Quadrilateral Framework. This indicates that it has gone beyond being just a security dialogue into becoming a framework for action. Now, the central theme of the quad is ‘Countering the aggressiveness and the expansionism of china in the Indo-Pacific region’.

  • Within a month of the inauguration of Joe Biden as President, the third Quad Foreign Minister's meeting had been held virtually on 18 February this year and during this meeting, the four member countries agreed to oppose strongly any attempts by China to alter the status quo in the Indo-Pacific region by force and they vowed to work with ASEAN and Europe.

  • There were speculations in some quarters that Joe Biden will reduce the importance of the Quad and US policy formulation. Now, these speculations have turned out to be incorrect. Recently, the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden has made the summit one of his earliest multilateral engagements and it shows the importance is giving to close cooperation with its allies in the indo-pacific region.

  • With America deciding that it wants to build bridges or with its traditional partners and involve new partners like India into this enterprise. Suddenly now, Quad looks more operational more realistic in its approach and also more substantive in its out in its outreach.

Conclusion:

  • The challenge for a country like India is how can it develop its own internal muscle power as well as leverage partnerships with other countries and in this particular case, a platform like Quad allows India that leverage which perhaps India needs.

  • India has to guard its national interests and India's national interests are being severely threatened by Chinese economic and territorial expansionism. So, India has to take care of whatever possible action needs to be taken either directly or in consult with other like-minded countries and in that context Quad will continue to assume greater and greater significance at least in the foreseeable future.

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