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QUAD Summit 2021 – PM Modi to attend first Leaders’ Summit of the Quadrilateral Framework

QUAD Summit 2021 – PM Modi to attend first Leaders’ Summit of the Quadrilateral Framework


  • GS 2 || International Relations ||  India & its Neighbours || Indian Ocean Geopolitics

Why in the news?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga recently came together for the first QUAD Summit-2021.

What is ‘Quad’?

  • Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) also known as “Quad”, is the informal strategic dialogue between India, USA, Japan and Australia with a shared objective to support a “free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region, that China seeks to threaten.

Brief History of Quad:

  • The idea of QUAD came about in 2004 when the four countries, namely the USA, India, Japan and Australia formed a “core group” for a joint response to the Indian Ocean tsunami to undertake rescue and relief operations.
  • However, the concept as a forum was initiated as a dialogue in August 2007 by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. But, the idea couldn’t move ahead with Australia pulling out of it in 2008, apparently due to Chinese pressure.
  • After several high-level meetings among the representatives of four countries, the first revival was witnessed in 2019 when the first foreign ministerial-level meeting of QUAD countries was held in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
  • Later, the foreign ministers of these four countries met in Japan in October 2020 followed by a virtual meet of the ministers last month under the new leadership elected in the USA.
  • The move was paralleled by the joint military exercise ‘Malabar’ which was held at an unprecedented scale involving India, Japan, Australia, Singapore and the US

Focus Areas of Quad:

  • Initially the focus of the grouping to assert a rule based international border in the Asia Pacific amidst the increasing unilateral actions by China.
  • But the focus areas now include anti-piracy operations, joint military training, developing deep-rooted relationships with Asia-Pacific countries and also improving trade exchanges.

Significance of the grouping:

  • Rule based international order in Asia-Pacific: Free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large.
  • Rationalise China’s dominance: China has territorial disputes with almost every country in the Asia Pacific region. Due to its economic might, it has also been successful in scaring some countries away or has forced them some to submit to the Chinese dominant behaviour. The Quad grouping would instil confidence among such countries and would force China to recorrect its strategy.
  • Piracy, terrorism and other security related challenges: Tackle common challenges of terrorism and proliferation. The military cooperation would reduce the security risk in the region.
  • Acting as a deterrent for increasing unilateral Chinese assertion: The grouping would act as an effective deterrent for the increasing unilateral Chinese actions in the Asia pacific region.
  • Mutual trade and investment relations: The Asia Pacific countries have long relied on China for trade related purposes. However during the Pandemic the fragile supply-chain ecosystems got exposed and now these countries are in search of alternatives. The Quad grouping provides an alternative for trade and investment in the region.

China’s views:

  • China has been extremely critical of the ‘Quad grouping’ so much so that It has went to the far of calling it ‘Asian NATO’.
  • It has also sent several demarches to India and other Quad member countries to record its disapproval of the grouping.
  • China has also severely criticised India’s Malabar military exercise which also includes other three members military participation on several occasions.

Significance  for India:

  • India is set to gain from the Quad grouping- materialistically as well as strategically. Some of the well-known advantages are:
  • A rule based International order in India’s interests: India is rapidly improving its relations with the East and South East Asian countries. However, the out of proportion Chinese influence or coercion of the countries has been the biggest roadblock.
  • Challenge to Chinese aggression: India has also territorial disputes with China on its northern and north-eastern borders. The Quad would enable India to challenge China’s aggression on its borders.
  • India’s own security challenges: India is strategically located in the Indian Ocean. The Quad would ensure India’s security in the Indian Ocean as the Quad along with checking piracy, terrorism and organised crimes, would also ensure that China are not able to venture into Indian waters with its surveillance tools.
  • Enhanced military capability: The Quad grouping would increase interoperability of Indian military with advanced countries such as the USA, Japan, and Australia. India can leverage this for strategic gains.
  • Enhanced international prestige: India has been instrumental in bringing all four countries on the same page so that the Quad grouping comes into existence. India has also initiated ‘Exercise Malabar’ an annual joint military exercise which includes the US, Japan and Australia. It deserves all praises for its tireless continuous efforts in this direction.

QUAD: Is it the sign of India’s compromising strategic autonomy in favour of the US?

Though India is part of Quad, it is not a formal alliance or any security architecture against China. Moreover, alliances are not even feasible in this globalised world based on complex interdependence. But QUAD membership reinforces India’s multi-polar foreign policy as:

  • India’s memberships to other organisations: India is associated with several forums such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), BRICS etc. as per its strategic needs.
  • The other members of these groups face some sought of strategic competition from the USA, but India has managed well to maintain strategic autonomy which is a pillar of multi polar world order.
  • Objective is to assert rule based international order: Through QUAD India seeks to reassert rule based world order to counter China’s growing power and assertion.
  • Democratic values, transparency and respect for global peace: The QUAD initiative is a group of four largest and powerful democracies in the world which values democratic, peaceful, rule based international order rather than geopolitical ambitions, expansionist agendas, etc.
  • India has cleared on several occasions that the Quad was more about sharing democratic experiences than a security arrangement directed at China. Only recently, the first summit of Quad proactively discussed managing the Covid-19 Pandemic and distribution of Covid Vaccines developed by India in a systematic and organised manner.
  • Active cooperation with other countries: Different nations are seeking to project their strategic power in the region.For example: Vietnam has been inviting India to explore the minerals in its territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
  • India’s own security policy: India’s membership to QUAD should be seen in this light as a counterbalancing initiative to secure its own neighbourhood.

Challenges for India:

  • Increasing rivalry and presence of global powers in the Asia-Pacific region: The emergence of new players like the U.S. and Japan has only increased multiple regional rivalries in the region and increases the vulnerability of the region.
  • Balance between neighbourhood and the Asia-Pacific: While the quadrilateral grouping will bring developmental projects, it will considerably erode India’s primacy in the neighbourhood.
  • Changed Chinese attitude: India had impeded Chinese demand for a diplomatic mission in Bhutan, now it would be a challenge if the US pursues the same. In addition, China may adopt more aggressive posture along Sino-Indian borders which may eventually escalate to the armed conflict.
  • Presence of global powers in Indian waters: India had vociferously objected to Chinese naval presence in Sri Lanka. Now India will not be able to object to U.S. naval warships and Japanese presence there.
  • India’s eroding credibility in its neighbourhood may nullify its gains in the global arena: India while pursuing aspirations in global alliances falls short of its regional commitments. India has changed its position on Hambantota several times, ambivalent on tackling political issues in Nepal, Maldives crisis, Myanmar Rohingya issue etc.
  • Compromising strategic autonomy: There is actually a good probability that India may have to compromise its strategic autonomy given India is dragging itself into the US-China rivalry willingly.

Quad+: An outcome of Pandemic

  • The US, Japan, Australia and India now share the common challenge of deteriorating relations with China- both diplomatically as well as economic relations.
  • Even though military cooperation remains one of the most important dimensions of the quad, the bloc is slowly also trying to forge economic co- operations among member countries.
  • The intent of the bloc to strengthen economic relations has become even clearer due to covid-19 pandemic .
  • The fragility of the global supply chain exposed during the Pandemic and China’s unilateral actions.
  • All four countries took several steps to strengthen the economic relationship within the bloc as well inside their domestic territory. For eg: India launched AtmanIrbhar Bharat to contain the trade dependency over China for essential materials.
  • Reflecting the intentions to transform it as a trade bloc, the ‘Quad-Plus’—the four Quad nations and Vietnam, South Korea and New Zealand—has already been proposed.

Way out:

  • QUAD is a significant strategic tool that India may leverage to serve its interests in Asia-Pacific region as well as tackling China.
  • However it has to make sure that it remains a trustful partner of its neighbourhood countries to ensure that China does not find a foothold here.
  • Also, India should restrain from involving too much into the growing US-China rivalry and should manage its issues with both countries through appropriate platforms in a bilateral manner.
  • India should also not take its relationships with other critical non-Quad countries such as Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc. for granted.

Model Mains Question:

  1. Do you think India’s active participation in the ‘Quadrilateral Agreement’ compromises India’s ‘Strategic autonomy’, the most cherished value in India’s foreign policy insofar? Explain.