India’s approach to QUAD is another example of its belief in the plurilateral form of foreign policy. It is trying to contain China’s increasing influence in the Indo-Pacific region but at the same time does not wish to damage any kind of bilateral relations with China.
The main reason India was eager to join QUAD was to protect its maritime interests in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). India has clearly suggested several times that its entry to QUAD should not be taken as an anti-China move, but China thinks otherwise, and this can result in grave implications on the relationship between India and China.
On the other hand, a new trilateral pact named AUKUS has been established with the aim to overcome security challenges in the Indo-Pacific. Why was AUKUS established even though there are too many players in the same region? Will the entry of AUKUS undermine the existence of QUAD? How does China react to these new developments in the Indo-Pacific region?
This article aims to study QUAD and how India’s entry to QUAD can benefit the nation. It will also take a look at recent developments related to the region and how the entry of AUKUS can affect QUAD and India.
QUADRILATERAL SECURITY DIALOGUE (QUAD)
QUAD is an informal strategic forum among four nations, i.e., the USA, Australia, Japan, and India, exchanging strategic intelligence and conducting joint military exercises. Though India has made many attempts to highlight the purpose of QUAD as a forum to discuss issues on trade and culture and as a safeguarding space for security, it is often seen as a platform for protecting the Indo-Pacific region from China’s expansionist policies and countering China’s military and economic rise.
THE HISTORY OF QUAD
The idea of QUAD was proposed by the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, way back in 2007, but it went through a series of irregular exercises and meetings before it turned into a formal organization.
2004: QUAD began as an AD-Hoc grouping after the Indian Ocean Tsunami and worked towards tsunami relief and construction as the ‘Tsunami Core Group,’ which was dissolved after the purpose was solved.
2017: In May 2017, the first meeting of QUAD took place in Manila, when they were all gathered for the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
Though the QUAD was formed, the weaknesses of the institution were quite prominently visible, and this gave room for the critics to strengthen their campaign against QUAD. China obviously criticized the alliance of these four nations and has even called it the ‘Asian Version of NATO.’
Increasing Chinese pressure stopped Australia, India, and the United States of America from formalizing the dialogue. In addition to that, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s resignation in 2007 deprived QUAD of its main architect. Later, Australia stated that QUAD did not suit its strategic outlook and therefore would not participate in the QUAD Dialogue of 2008. Thus the QUAD disintegrated.
2017: Shinzo Abe came to power in Japan again in 2012 and called for the ‘Democratic Security Diamond,’ thus reviving QUAD a decade later. The Representatives met at Manila ASEAN Summit in November 2017 and discussed a wide variety of issues.
WHY HAS QUAD BEEN IN THE NEWS RECENTLY?
With the years going by, increasing destabilization in the region led to growing convergence in foreign policies among the four nations, and consequently, QUAD was ‘re-formed’ and held meetings on a bi-monthly basis. QUAD seems to be reviving and returning to prominence and has been in the news recently due to multiple meetings and exercises it held in 2020-2021.
- A three-day Naval exercise began on 3rd November in the Bay of Bengal, famously called the Malabar Exercise of 2020. It was for the first time since 2007 when all four nations were a part of that exercise after Australia joined the traditional military drill after an invitation from India in 2020.
- QUAD made history on 12th March 2021, when India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, United States President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga connected via video conference in their first-ever formal QUAD Leader’s summit.
- The first-ever in-person meet for QUAD was held in September 2021 in the USA that was attended by all four leaders— US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese President Yoshihide Suga, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
WHY DID INDIA JOIN QUAD?
The relations between India and China have never been completely dispute-free and cordial but have hit a new low in recent times. There are disputes related to the boundary, supply of nuclear technology, military and diplomatic support to Pakistan, blocking Indian membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), etc. It has become difficult for India to trust its neighbor, and with the formation of QUAD, India seems to have a choice and an alliance that can help India counter the increasing power of China. Listed below are a few of the reasons why India encourages the formation of QUAD.
- India aims to secure a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council with the help of the QUAD.
- This alliance will also help India upgrade its defense manufacturing technology.
- With China’s growing military power, the PLA has become more assertive, and the support from the USA and its allies can be really helpful in taking care of this situation.
- The USA has facilitated India’s integration with the global nuclear order after China blocked its membership from the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
- India can see a potentiality to work with QUAD members to offer China’s Belt and Road Initiative alternatives.
CHINA’S REACTION TO QUAD
“We hope that the relevant countries will keep in mind common interests of the regional countries and uphold the principle and do things for regional peace, stability, prosperity rather than the opposite.”
– Zhao Lijian, Spokesperson, Foreign Ministry, China.
China sees QUAD as a major challenge to its dream of increasing its power in the Asia-Pacific region. It clearly sees QUAD as a threat to China’s dreams, and India’s entry into QUAD makes it worse. China has even gone to lengths to call this summit’ selective materialism’ and ‘covid politics’ when the four nations decided to launch a collective response to the COVID pandemic in terms of co-operating and integrating their resources for increasing the production and supply of vaccines with India as a manufacturing hub. China’s frustration was natural as it saw this as the emergence of an alternative global vaccine collaboration, something which China had unilaterally reserved for itself for profiteering.
The AUKUS was formed in the light of the increasing security challenges that occurred in the Indo-Pacific region; it has been called the most significant security arrangement since the Second World War. Again, like the QUAD, it is speculated that AUKUS was also formed to deal with the growing influence of China in the region.
The Australia-UK-US trilateral pact was signed on 16th September 2021 and was formally announced by the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, joined by the US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson via video conference— to develop nuclear power submarines and enable Australia with access to cutting edge military technology and more cooperation across emerging modern technologies. These include artificial intelligence, undersea capabilities, and quantum technologies by the two other partners so that Australia is equipped enough to deal with the security challenges that might occur in the Indo-Pacific region in the future. Experts say that it will allow Australia to conduct longer patrols and give the alliance a stronger military presence in the region. This could pose a serious threat to China and even pose a great threat of war in the Indo-Pacific region.
Though this is not the only alliance that focuses on the Indo-Pacific region, it is certainly the one that focuses on military capabilities. Other groups focus on different areas. For example, the Five Eyes was formed to have intelligence-sharing, while ANZUS is a non-binding treaty that is slowly fading into irrelevance. Even QUAD has not explicitly spelled out its military intentions and focuses on trade, climate sharing, etc.
HOW DID CHINA AND FRANCE REACT?
China has called this decision to be an “extremely irresponsible step.” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “nuclear submarine cooperation between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia has seriously undermined regional peace and stability, intensified the arms race, and undermined international non-proliferation efforts.”
France was another country that had a very outrageous reaction to the announcement of AUKUS, as this new pact comes at a commercial loss for France. The 2016 Australia-France agreement to provide Australia with diesel-electric submarines that were valued at 66 billion dollars stands null and void. France has called AUKUS a “stab in the back.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR QUAD?
The emergence of the new trilateral could mean that it could overshadow the very existence of the QUAD. Questions are being raised about whether the USA has moved on from Japan and India or whether QUAD will be limited to dealing with just soft issues like climate change or the covid-19 vaccine while AUKUS will do the heavy work and become the stronger strategic sphere. With the USA and the UK already proposing to share technology to construct nuclear-powered submarines to Australia that would guarantee Australia to build at least eight nuclear powered (but conventionally armed) submarines, AUKUS has already made a stronger statement in the Indo-pacific region than QUAD was able to achieve in all these years.
But some scholars argue that the entry of AUKUS can be good for the QUAD as well. QUAD never claimed to be a military alliance but focussed on issues of common interest; with the development of AUKUS, these two institutions do not necessarily need to be in competition but can complement each other, where QUAD can work on giving China thorough economic competition through their trade deals and new supply chains, and AUKUS focuses on building military strength in the area.
WHERE DOES INDIA STAND IN THE WAKE OF NEW DEVELOPMENTS?
India has made no statement on the establishment of AUKUS, but it is not comfortable with any kind of proliferation, which the submarine pact represents. The United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Australia are all key allies to India and hold the same stance regarding the increasing powers of China; thus, the establishment of AUKUS poses no threat to the Indian subcontinent. In fact, it enhances security in the Indo-Pacific region which will ultimately benefit India.
Many experts raise questions on the existence of these forums, especially QUAD when it comes to their aims and intentions. Many consider QUAD and AUKUS to be a reaction to the growing expansionist aspirations of China. On one hand, AUKUS has stated its intentions clearly, while there is very little clarity in which direction QUAD is moving.
China clearly sees QUAD and AUKUS as its rivals, and their existence can increase the risk of wars in the region. The establishment of AUKUS also raises the question of whether QUAD should be expanded to add more members, considering that India is already working with the UK, South Korea, and the European Union in the Indo-Pacific Region.
Written by: Aashna