The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD, also known as the Quad) is an informal strategic dialogue between the United States, Japan, Australia and India that is maintained by talks between member countries. The dialogue was initiated in 2007 by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, with the support of Vice President Dick Cheney of the US, Prime Minister John Howard of Australia and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India.
The dialogue was paralleled by joint military exercises of an unprecedented scale, titled Exercise Malabar.
During the 2017 ASEAN Summits all four former members re-joined in negotiations to revive the quadrilateral alliance. With Prime Minister Malcolm Turn bull of Australia, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and President Donald Trump of the United States agreeing in Manila to revive the security pact among tensions in the South China Sea caused primarily by China and its territorial ambitions.
Strategic Framework of this Quadrilateral
In the early twenty-first century, the strategic preoccupation of the United States with Iraq and Afghanistan served as a distraction from major power shifts in the Asia-Pacific, brought about by increased Chinese economic power, which undermined America’s traditional role in the region.
Active US-Indian military cooperation expanded in 1991 following the economic liberalisation of India. This cooperation further expanded in the mid-1990s under an early Indian centre-right coalition, and in 2001 India offered the United States militaryfacilities within its territory for offensive operations in Afghanistan. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee signed a “New Framework for India-USDefence” in 2005 under the Indian United Progressive Alliance government, increasing cooperation regarding military relations, defence industry and technology sharing, and the establishment of a”Framework on maritime security cooperation.”India and the United States conducted dozens of joint military exercises in the ensuing years before the development of a Quadrilateral dialogue,interpreted as an effort to “contain” China.
Trilateral Security Dialogue (TSD)
The Trilateral Strategic Dialogue (TSD) is a series of trilateral meetings between the United States, Japan, and Australia. The TSD originally convened at senior official level in 2002, then was upgraded to ministerial level in 2005.
The UnitedStates expected regional allies to help facilitate evolving US global strategy to fight against a war on terrorism and nuclear proliferation. In return, Japan and Australia expected benefits including continued US strategic involvement and themaintenance of strategic guarantees in the region.
In early 2007, Japanese Prime Minister Abe proposed the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quadrilateral Initiative”, under which India would join a formal multilateral dialogue with Japan, the United States and Australia.
The Quadrilateral was supposed to establish an “Asian Arc of Democracy,” envisioned to ultimately include countries in central Asia, Mongolia, the Korean peninsula, and other countries in Southeast Asia: “virtually all the countries on China’s periphery, except for China itself.” This hasled some critics, such as former US State Department official Morton Abramowitz, to call the project “an anti-Chinese move,” while others have called it a “democratic challenge” to the projected Chinese century, mounted by Asian powers in coordination with the United States. While China has traditionally favored the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Quadrilateral was viewed as an “Asian NATO;” Daniel Twining of the German Marshall Fund of the United States has written that the arrangement “could lead to military conflict,” or could instead “lay an enduring foundation for peace” if China becomes a democratic leader in Asia.
It all happened because of China and its powerful democratic adherence. China outgrew every single nation regarding military leadership which eventually resulted in building this alliance.
Quadrilateral Security Dialogue came into existence with a sole purposeof reaching to an increasingly economically powerful China in the Asia-Pacific, wheregreat power rivalry, massive military investment, social inequality, and contemporary territorial disputes have all made war in Asia “plausible.” According to the CNAS, establishing a series of alliances among nations recognized asdemocratic by the United States furthers its own interests: “It is precisely because of the rise of Chinese power and the longer-term trend towards multipolarity in the international system that values can and should serve as a tool of Americanstatecraft today.”
India’s position in the Quad
The reasons for the resurrection of this loose ad hoc grouping is the changing geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific. The assertive foreign policy and economic expansionof China, combined with the reluctance of U.S. President Donald Trump to lead the Asia Pacific, has concerned regional power centres like Japan and Australiaand led to the concerting of like-minded democracies into the Quad. However, with no common statement released, the grouping has to date only spelled out thedifferent objectives of individual countries and a cautious approach to steer away from Chinese pressure.
Confusion exists as to what each of the Quad nation wants. India has quite rightly stuck to its ASEAN centrality/Act East Policy as the pivot for its Indo-Pacificnomenclature and views Quad in this context.
By describing the Indian and Pacific Oceans as a “single strategic arena,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has described India and the United States as “regional bookends.” The rhetoric is clear — the United States looks to India to play a greater role in maintaining regional stability and helping balance China.
However, it is not clear how the United States will operationalize its goals, including freedom of navigation. Is it through military deployment or adherence tointernational norms?
Closer to home, both Japan and Australia are looking for a security umbrella that will balance China’s influence in the region. Their statements made no mention of China, but the dragon is in the room. Australia is worried about China’s interest in its land, infrastructure, and influence on its universities. Japan suspects China of supporting North Korea and is wary of several territorial issues with Beijing. Hence India’s role in the grouping is to be a viable balancer.
As Quad goes on to find its purpose, India should guard against getting caught positioning against China and being included in the United States’ militarycalculations in the region.
Some ideas are not easily killed. The proposal for quadrilateral cooperation among India,Japan, Australia and the United States may be one of those. The concept is inextricably linked to China’s emergence as a great power,second only to the United States. The fear of China’s growing unilateralism drives Asian nations to reduce the regional imbalance by banding together. But the attractions of doing business with China and the dangers of provoking it limit the impulses for collective action against Beijing.The proposition that Asian democracies and the United States should get together to balance China had a moment in the sun during 2007. Killed in 2008 by Australia, the proposal began to breathe again in the last few years. It has gained some real traction last week. India, which was reluctant to revive the quad until recently, now seems ready for a discussion of the terms and conditions for its participation.