In the aftermath of the Galwan valley clash that has led top leaders around the world to rethink their relations with China, there is growing chatter on the significance of revisiting QUAD's relevance, particularly in the Asia Pacific region.
QUAD, which is a multilateral grouping for 4 democracies — Australia, Japan, India and the United States of America was first mooted to dialogue by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007 to counter to the growing Chinese influence.
However, Australia pulled out of the pact in the initial phases reportedly due to Chinese pressure and the treaty took a backseat after that until its Prime Minister Scott Morrison actively campaigned to reboot the treaty in early 2020 amid the growing distrust between China and Australia in the wake of COVID crisis. The US for its part has been extremely vocal and direct in finding ways to make more allies to contain China's regional hegemony.
Examples of US outreach campaigns involve former President Obama's 'Pivot to Asia' strategy and Trump's 'Indo-Pacific' partnerships. These strategic undertakings are all visible attempts to engage more with the East. These strategies are eerily similar to India's own 'Look East' and PM Modi's 'Act East' policies.
Although India and Japan have had a history of staying clear of security alliances and initially showed apprehensions in joining the QUAD, it has become more evident that the treaty has a lot to offer.
With all four nations finding common ground and interests, the pact tentatively will try to ensure better maritime trade and security against Chinese bullying in the region.
The Centre for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) Alliances and American Leadership Program recently performed an informal survey to analyse the possible steps forward. Their findings informed several achievable policy goals and outlined its proposals thereby increasing the pact's momentum in the years to come.
QUAD or more formally called QSD (Quadrilateral Strategic Dialogue) was formed to discuss collective efforts, shared commitments and cooperation on counter-terrorism and cybercrimes, and providing assistance during disasters and strengthening cooperation in finance.
The QUAD's goals is twofold – a military alliance similar to that of NATO, which China has repeatedly called provocative and divisive, and second regional hegemony and national interest.
The QUAD's role has so far been bureaucratic in nature with foreign minister-level meetings and dialogues that take place occasionally, once every decade, while encouraging military exercises together and providing humanitarian assistance in times of disasters such as the Tsunami naval exercises that took place in 2007.
Although member states have never officially admitted the full scope of the pact, military engagements among these countries have broken new ground and the four countries enjoy unprecedented levels of cooperation and intelligence sharing.
Ambitious geopolitical and economic rivalries against China will seek to expand multilateral dialogue not only for security purposes but also to achieve more comprehensible objectives. It could be in India's best interest to pursue the course with more vigour, especially after the recent Galwan valley incident which has once again ruffled more than just a few feathers on either side of the border.
With diluted ambiguity and a greater focus on mission and purpose, QUAD 2.0 is on firmer ground now than ever before. The "mini-lateral" talks which took place recently have suggested recommendations to the format of the dialogue proceedings after a CSIS panel observed the structure and offered inputs for alliances based on member states' vested interests and regional capabilities. The recommendations are as follows:
- Maintaining consistent dialogue on defence and infrastructure
- Focus on Indo-Pacific infrastructure and development coordination
- Establish a working committee and Head to oversee annual govt meetings
- Annual meet of joint operational commands