QUAD: Countering China

Joy Bidden, the American president will be unhesitant to continue two of the expedient and prudent policies of his predecessor, Donald Trump, one is Abraham Accords, which is all about making the Jewish State of Israel widely recognized across the globe especially in the Muslim world and second is Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) and Indo-Pacific Policy which aims to respond to China’s rise and her assertion over the period. Referring to the latter, Bidden had said, ‘I think this is a good thing. I think this is a positive thing’ of the Trump Administration. America believes that the Quad is the fundamental foundation of the USA’s policy on the Indo-Pacific. This could be also realized from Bidden’s first telephonic conversation to the Indian Prime Minister on the 8th of February, 2021, where cooperation over QUAD loomed very high. The White House issued a statement soon after the telephonic conversation between the two leaders which said that “The leaders agreed to continue close cooperation to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, including support for freedom of navigation, territorial integrity, and a stronger regional architecture through the Quad,”. The four countries of QUAD as per the Japanese news are meeting in the coming future to discuss various key challenges faced by their arch-rival, China.

What is QUAD all about?

QUAD is the strategic grouping of four major democratic powerful nations, the US, Japan, Australia, and India, formed and promoted to ensure security in and around the Indo-Pacific region. This region is of vital importance, for commercial exchanges and for energy supplies that are fed by the huge mineral ores that lie in this area, among the countries around this area. This grouping is thought to be the brainchild of Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who along with Americas’ then-Vice President Dick Cheney, John Harward of Australia, and Dr. Manmohan Sing of India, initiated it in 2007. It envisioned to form the ‘Arc of Democracy’ by bringing in countries from Central Asia, Mongolia, South Korea, and East Asian Nations. The members of Quad usually hold dialogues at several levels and conduct joint military exercises which are commonly referred to as ‘Exercise Malabar’. This grouping has found a resurgence over the years due to China’s assertive behavior in the region, which is reflected through her actions in the South China Sea, her border clashes with neighbors, and her belligerent attitude towards regional powers and other smaller nations. So to simplify, it is an entanglement against Chinese political, commercial, and military actions, which have found alarming sounds over the period.

Countering the Chinese threat

Asia is now witnessing what Europe witnessed soon after the end of World War second, a power rivalry between the two giant world powers that had come to the surface, the US and the erstwhile USSR. The growing communistic influence across the borders of European countries had sent Goosebumps in the capitalistic world, and they after Churchill cautioned them, in 1945 by saying ‘let’s not be deceived today we are in the midst of cold war’, then only the US and her allies began to act realistically and swiftly to the underpinning situation, by launching the famous ‘Containment of Communism’ policy reflected through the Trueman Doctrine, Marshal Plan and finally the establishment of the offensive and defensive military alliance, NATO, with its several offshoots in the form of SEATO, CENTO, etc. Similarly one of the American offensive realist thinker, John Mearsheimer, cautioned the world over the ‘rise of China’ some twenty years before, by arguing that ‘the economic rise of China will contribute to her military rise also and she will use all this to become a regional hegemon to dominate Asia and a security competition among the Asian major powers will be witnessed’. China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, her increase in military presence on the islands, the recent border clashes with India at Ladakh, which took around twenty lives of Indian soldiers cautioned the world, especially the great powers like the US about the volatility of this region. To respond to these threats the Indo-Pacific Strategy, which was launched by President Obama in 2017 and the resurgence of Quad is given intensive impetus. The USA, under Indo-Pacific Strategy, identified China as a major threat to US-India interests in the Indian Ocean.   

Therefore this strategy, works for the fair and free flow of transactions of all kinds in this sphere, besides its central focus is to contain China’s influence, especially in disputed South China Sea waters. India is considered one of the main partners in carrying forward this strategy. India and the US are becoming natural partners in this new contestation of claims in this region by encouraging other states to shift their strategies and all are becoming complementary for each other, now, in dealing with their common enemy. Under the backdrop of this situation, The USA and India concluded several mutual agreements in the very recent past.  In 2016 USA and India have signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), and in 2018, the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), for enabling greater communication between two militaries. Both the countries went a step further by signing the Basic Exchange Cooperation Agreement (BECA) in 2020, which will ‘enable India to receive advanced navigational aids and avionics on US-supplied aircraft with access to sophisticated GPS allowing it to use its ballistic and cruise missiles and other weapons with pinpoint accuracy’.   

Quad, on the other hand, is a big forum, which is now referred to as Asian NATO, an alliance of shared security and geopolitical goals among the Asian giants to respond strongly to growing China’s assertion. Since the grouping is shifting its diplomatic agendas to security challenges, it is but natural that the militarization in and around this region shall increase so shall the members of the Quad. Those countries who are already in trouble with China can find an expedient choice in the shape of Quad. This forum will force its members to come out from the traditional idealistic foreign policies to well calculated, realistic action-oriented offensive and defensive strategies in dealing with their common enemy. Though the grouping adheres to territorial integrity and sovereignty it at the same time also brings a challenge for these nations to act on the external pressures of world military leader USA. Among the four only India shares a land border with China, a caution in case of any direct military maneuvers. India is cautious about this challenge and was thus focusing more on the confluence of her ‘Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative’ (IPOI), announced in 2019, that aspires to Security and Growth for all in the Region, (SAGAR) with Japan’s ‘Free and Open Indo Pacific’ and ‘ASEAN’S Outlook for Indo-Pacific’ to work on the areas of common interest.

Notwithstanding this, the power rivalry between the USA and China will dominate the scene and it is Quad that is coming to direct the foreign policy goals of these nations.  China sees Quad as an anti-China move, a block to slow down her pace of development and disturb her peace, as UK, France, Germany, and Netherland, will also join hands with Quad members by deploying their naval forces in the region and thus, increasing the intensity of security competition in the region. As the Cold War power politics dominated Europe for second half of twenty century, the new power rivalry in this region might engulf 21st century.

Author is Assistant Professor of Political Science, at HKM, GDC, Bandipora.