Source: The Indian Express Relevance: GS Paper ll (International Relations and Institutions) Context: US Ambassador, Garcetti participated in a discussion on the Quad alongside ex-foreign secretary Shyam Saran, Australian Ambassador Philip Green, German Ambassador Philipp Ackermann, United Nations Resident Coordinator in India Shombi Sharp, former Indian high commissioner to Canada Ajay Bisaria, Norwegian diplomat May-Elin Stener, and journalist Suhasini Haidar from The Hindu.

Drawing an analogy to a “dinner party” and a “car ride together,” US Ambassador Eric Garcetti highlighted on Sunday that India plays a leading role in the alliance.


The Quad, or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), is an informal strategic forum consisting of four nations: the United States of America (USA), India, Australia, and Japan.

 A key goal of the Quad is to collaborate towards fostering a free, open, prosperous, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.

Formation of QUAD:

Initiation by Shinzo Abe (2007): Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed the concept of the Quad in 2007. Since its establishment, representatives from the four nations have held periodic meetings.

Origin tied to Exercise Malabar and 2004 Tsunami: The roots of the Quad trace back to Exercise Malabar and the 2004 Tsunami, during which India led relief efforts.

  • Subsequently, the US, Japan, and Australia joined in. China, perceiving a threat, formally protested to Quad members.

Australia’s Withdrawal (2008): Australia withdrew from the Quad in 2008, apparently due to political pressure from China and escalating US-China conflicts in the Asia-Pacific.

  • However, Australia re-engaged in 2010, participating in Quad naval exercises, and military cooperation with the US resumed.

Japan’s ‘Democratic Security Diamond’ (2012): In 2012, the Japanese Prime Minister highlighted the concept of Asia’s ‘Democratic Security Diamond’ involving the US, Japan, India, and Australia.

Official Talks in the Philippines (2017): The first official Quad talks occurred in the Philippines in 2017, solidifying the forum’s diplomatic presence.

Principles of Quad:

Strategic Sea Routes Preservation: The Quad is driven by the goal of maintaining the Indo-Pacific’s strategic sea routes free from military or political influence.

  • It functions as a strategic alliance focused on counteracting Chinese dominance in the region.

Countering Chinese Influence: Primarily, the Quad aims to curtail Chinese dominance. Its core objective is to establish a rules-based global order, ensure freedom of navigation, and promote a liberal trading system in the Indo-Pacific.

  • Additionally, it seeks to provide alternative debt financing options for nations in the Indo-Pacific.

Dialogue on Global Issues: Quad leaders engage in discussions covering contemporary global challenges, including critical and emerging technologies, connectivity and infrastructure, cybersecurity, maritime security, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, climate change, pandemic response, and education.

Initiatives and Prospects of Quad:

➢ Security of Sea Lanes: The Quad nations are actively engaging in joint naval exercises, such as Exercise Malabar, to ensure the security of crucial sea lanes.

  • For instance, these initiatives involve coordinated patrols to safeguard maritime routes in the Indo-Pacific.

Economic Cooperation and Liberal Trading System: Through forums like the Quad, there is a push for economic cooperation.

  • For example, discussions on trade policies and removal of trade barriers are part of the Quad’s efforts to reinforce a liberal trading system.

Technological Collaboration: Quad nations are exploring joint initiatives in critical technologies.

  • An example includes collaborative research and development projects in areas like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and cybersecurity to stay at the forefront of technological advancements.

Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR): In response to disasters, the Quad nations have demonstrated collaborative efforts. After natural calamities, such as earthquakes or tsunamis, the Quad facilitates joint HADR missions, pooling resources and expertise for effective relief.

Climate Change Mitigation: The Quad is actively involved in promoting sustainable practices.

  • An example is the commitment to renewable energy projects and joint efforts to address climate change impacts, showcasing a shared vision for environmental stewardship.

Connectivity and Infrastructure Development: The Quad envisions collaborative initiatives in connectivity and infrastructure projects.

  • For example, discussions on building high-quality infrastructure that adheres to environmental and social standards, enhancing regional connectivity and development.

Education and People-to-People Exchanges: Quad nations are exploring avenues for educational collaboration and people-to-people exchanges.

  • Initiatives such as joint academic programs, scholarships, and cultural exchanges contribute to fostering mutual understanding and building strong people-to-people ties.

Space Exploration and Satellite Cooperation: Recognizing the importance of space exploration, Quad nations are exploring cooperative efforts in satellite technology.

  • This includes joint satellite launches, data-sharing agreements, and advancements in space-related research for mutual benefit.

Cybersecurity Cooperation: In the face of growing cyber threats, the Quad is working on collaborative cybersecurity measures. This involves sharing intelligence, conducting joint exercises, and developing common frameworks to strengthen cybersecurity capabilities across member nations.

Significance of Quad for India:

Balancing China’s Influence: India perceives the Quad as a crucial strategic alliance to counterbalance and mitigate the growing economic and military influence of China in the region. This collaborative approach ensures a collective response to regional challenges.

➢ Collective Defence in Border Tensions: As a member of the Quad, India has the potential to leverage the support and cooperation of other member nations in addressing heightened border tensions or conflicts with China. This collective defense mechanism enhances India’s security posture.

Utilising Naval Strength in Indo-Pacific: The Quad membership empowers India to harness its formidable in naval capabilities for strategic explorations and manoeuvres the Indo-Pacific region. This collaboration enhances maritime security and strengthens India’s influence in the geopolitical landscape.

Advocacy for a Free Indo-Pacific: India aligns itself with the Quad’s shared commitment to promoting a free, open, inclusive, and coercion-free Indo- Pacific region. This advocacy serves as a collective response to counter China’s assertive behaviour, safeguarding regional stability.

Net Security Provider Role: The Quad serves as a pivotal platform for India to bolster its role as a net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region. Through collaborative efforts, India contributes to maintaining and sustaining dominance in its maritime domain.

Advancing Multipolar World Ambitions: India’s endorsement of a rule- based multipolar world finds resonance within the Quad framework. Collaborating with like-minded nations, India actively contributes to shaping a global order that is not dominated by a single power, aligning with its aspirations of regional superpower status.

Post COVID Diplomacy and Supply Chain Resilience: In the aftermath of global disruptions caused by the pandemic, India leverages Quad collaboration to fortify its diplomatic ties and establish a foundation for its manufacturing expertise.

  • This strategic move aims to reduce over-dependence on China for global value chains and aligns with the Quad’s collective efforts to enhance supply chain resilience.

Technology Collaboration and Innovation: The Quad provides India with opportunities for collaborative ventures in critical and emerging technologies. Joint efforts in research and development foster innovation, positioning India as a key contributor to technological advancements within the alliance.

Challenges to QUAD Grouping:

➢ Absence of Clear Framework: Despite its ambitious goals, the Quad lacks a clearly defined structure typical of traditional multilateral organisations.

  • It operates without a secretariat or a permanent decision-making body, deviating from the organisational models of entities like the European Union or United Nations.

Emphasis on Expanding Agreements: In contrast to institutions such as the European Union or United Nations, the Quad focuses on expanding existing agreements between member nations and highlighting their shared values rather than adopting a policy structure.

➢ Divergence from NATO’s Collective Defense: Unlike NATO, the Quad doesn’t include provisions for collective defence. Instead, it opts for joint military exercises as a demonstration of unity and diplomatic cohesion, diverging from the collective defence approach adopted by NATO.

➢ Addressing China’s Economic Influence: China’s substantial economic ties with Quad members, particularly Australia, present challenges as it can potentially exploit these ties to coerce or influence countries in its favour.

  • This dynamic poses potential complications for India within the Quad framework.

Imbalance in Cooperation: The current Quad members vary significantly in financial resources, strategic awareness, and military capabilities, particularly in the Indian Ocean.

  • This dissimilarity may result in a lack of convergence on various issues, potentially creating imbalances in the future.

Lack of Coordinated Actions: The withdrawal of the USA from Afghanistan, leading to potential security challenges and the rise of terror networks, raises questions about the Quad’s joint commitment to counterterrorism.

  • This also prompts concerns about the USA’s willingness to allocate resources to address terror network threats, potentially affecting the Quad’s coordinated actions.

Way Forward :

Enhanced Structural Framework: Establish a more defined structural framework for the Quad, incorporating elements of a secretariat and a permanent decision-making body. This would provide the group with a more organised approach to its operations, akin to other successful multilateral organisations.

➢ Strategic Policy Development: Focus on developing comprehensive policies that align with the Quad’s shared values.

  • Learning from successful models like the European Union and United Nations, the Quad should move beyond expanding existing agreements and work towards formulating cohesive policies for effective collaboration.

Exploration of Collective Defense Mechanisms: Evaluate the feasibility of incorporating collective defence mechanisms within the Quad’s framework.

  • Learning from the NATO model, the Quad could explore options for enhancing security and response capabilities through collective defence agreements, ensuring a more robust approach to regional challenges.

Diplomatic Engagement with China: Navigate the challenge of China’s economic influence through diplomatic engagement. Establish open channels of communication to address concerns, fostering cooperation where possible and mitigating potential coercive tactics.

  • This proactive approach can contribute to maintaining a balance within the Quad grouping.

Capacity-Building and Resource Alignment: Address imbalances among Quad members by prioritising capacity-building initiatives. Foster collaboration on strategic awareness, military capabilities, and financial resources, ensuring a more equitable distribution of strengths.

  • This collective effort would enhance the Quads effectiveness in addressing challenges in the Indian Ocean and beyond.

In conclusion, the Quad stands at a pivotal juncture, facing challenges that require strategic solutions. By fortifying its structural framework, refining policies, exploring collective defense mechanisms, diplomatically engaging with China, and prioritizing capacity-building, the Quad can pave the way for a more resilient and effective collaboration in addressing regional and global complexities. The commitment to adapt and strengthen these aspects will be instrumental in realizing the Quad’s vision of a free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific.

Advait IAS