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Approach :

  1. General intro on Quad, stating what its means for its members.
  2. Very briefly mention the aim of Quad.
  3. Mention the issues facing the group.
  4. Conclusion

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) is a strategic cooperation among Australia, India, Japan and US. The consolidation of Quad is an important political pivot in reconfiguring the Asian order.

For US, it signals a commitment to remain engaged in the Indo-Pacific and lead a more coordinated effort to contain China’s rise. For India, the big political signal is it is willing to be part of a group that will deny China the opportunity to perturb a world order based on democracy, free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. For Australia, it is an irrevocable choice, given China’s growing assertiveness. So, the Quad is part of a churning of the security architecture in Asia.

Aims : the Quad is neither an alliance nor a full-fledged security pact, but it aims to secure an open order in the Indo-Pacific. Its supposed broad goals are : humanitarian relief, climate change, vaccines, coordination on technology, securing supply chains and a general outlook on an inclusive world order.

However, few bottlenecks remain, constraining its political effectiveness.

  • Although the group has staked claim on shared values, it should acknowledge the democratic crisis in the constituent members. The US has nominally acknowledged that its own democracy not devoid of troubles. Indian democracy is struggling. Australia’s virtual abandonment of its own citizens during Covid thwarted its credentials for a democratic humanitarianism. Being part of this club should induce self-consciousness that credibility of their democracies is the biggest asset to be preserved.
  • The Quad is not a formal security alliance. But, these countries should be willing to listen to or attuned to each other’s security needs. Australia may be the biggest beneficiary, but India’s biggest challenges emanate from its neighbourhood – Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and China. In this context, US decision to withdraw from Afghanistan signals US’s unwillingness to heed deeply to concerns & viewpoints that are not its own. This can be damaging in the longer-run. It is in India’s neighbourhood wherein the fate of the future global order will be decided as much as in the Indo-Pacific.
  • In critical technologies, supply chains and infrastructure, this group has the potential to do great research collaboration. It can develop critical technologies and can coordinate some global standards setting. In areas like cybersecurity, AI, there is scope for great cooperation. But, whether US is ready to or actually willing to share its most advanced capabilities is doubtful.
  • This collaboration is happening at a moment when both India and US have turned more protectionist, are sceptical of global trade deals and have found many contradictory interests. Surely, an open, inclusive, fair global order needs to reconfigure its supply chains to reduce dependence on China, by engaging with a global trading order that includes more countries.
  • The Covid situation is a missed opportunity. The stark truth of advanced countries hoarding vaccines and being complacent about ramping up production in the face of global shortages, is annoying.
  • With the World Bank systematically damaged and no big US push towards infrastructure investment or development financing, it is imperative that Quad comes up with an alternative development finance mechanism among themselves.
  • Climate change is an issue requiring greatest engagement with China, and Europe will be a big player. Arguably, US and India have sharper contradictions in this area, given the past records of broken commitments on financing and emission limits. The incremental gains from Quad on this issue will be marginal.

So, the political pivot that the Quad represents may be welcome. But it needs to expediently iron out these differences, if the grouping must achieve the strategic and political effectiveness, that it has been made for.

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