The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD, also known as the Quad or QUAD) is a strategic dialogue between the United States, India, Japan and Australia that is maintained by talks between member countries. The dialogue was initiated in 2007 by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with the support of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The dialogue was paralleled by joint military exercises of an unprecedented scale, titled Exercise Malabar. The diplomatic and military arrangement was widely viewed as a response to increased Chinese economic and military power. The Chinese government responded to the Quadrilateral dialogue by issuing formal diplomatic protests to its members.
The Quad ceased following the withdrawal of Australia during Kevin Rudd's tenure as prime minister, reflecting ambivalence in Australian policy over the growing tension between the United States and China in the Asia-Pacific. Following Rudd's replacement by Julia Gillard in 2010, enhanced military cooperation between the United States and Australia was resumed, leading to the placement of US Marines near Darwin, Australia, overlooking the Timor Sea and Lombok Strait. Meanwhile, India, Japan, and the United States continued to hold joint naval exercises under Malabar.
During the 2017 ASEAN Summits in Manila, all four former members led by Abe, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to revive the quadrilateral alliance. This was to counter China militarily and diplomatically in the South China Sea. Tensions between Quad members and China have led to fears of what was dubbed by some commentators as "a new Cold War" in the region.
On September 24, 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden hosted Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan at the White House for the first-ever in-person Leaders' Summit of the Quad. The leaders have put forth ambitious initiatives that deepen ties and advance practical cooperation on 21st-century challenges: ending the COVID-19 pandemic, including by increasing production and access to safe and effective vaccines; promoting high-standards infrastructure; combatting the climate crisis; partnering on emerging technologies, space, and cybersecurity; and cultivating next-generation talent in all the countries.
The Quad has various policy objectives, with the silent intention to counter China most often cited as a leitmotif. Nonetheless, its ultimate objective may be to create a principled regionalism across the Indo-Pacific, a regionalism that is free from coercion and predation. The March 2021 summit's statement, titled "The Spirit of the Quad," says that it strives for "a region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democraticâÂÂ¯values, and unconstrained by coercion." Despite a host of detractors, the Quad already plays a collective role in safeguarding the rules-based international order. At the same time, the notion of a free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) exerts an inspirational power.
In contrast to the FOIP, Chinese President Xi Jinping has implemented flagship policies and military expansionism in line with a grandiose national dream. His "Chinese Dream," epitomized by the Belt and Road Initiative, has certainly increased Chinese influence on a global scale. Simultaneously, it has accelerated Beijing's assertive and often bellicose "wolf warrior" posturing.
The summit is ahead of another big global meeting, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, planned for Glasgow, Scotland, in November. Back in March, the Quad leaders created a climate working group to discuss carbon emissions, renewable energy goals and coal usage in thermal power plants.
India is a big focus of those talks. It's the world's third-largest carbon emitter, behind China and the U.S., but is expected to account for the largest share of global energy demand growth through 2050. The U.S. wants to encourage India to eschew coal in favour of cleaner technology. To that end, Biden's special envoy for climate, John Kerry, visited India for talks earlier this month.
The timing of the Quad summit, right after the U.S.' chaotic pull-out from Afghanistan, is also designed to send a message about Biden's new foreign policy priorities, analysts say. When Biden spoke at the U.N. General Assembly this week, he said it was the first time in 20 years that the U.S. was not at war.
But some Quad members, particularly India, are now worried about China's influence in Afghanistan. India fears Afghanistan may become another link in China's Belt and Road Initiative. India is not part of that global infrastructure network, but its arch-rival Pakistan is — and there are fears that Chinese projects may increasingly encircle the world's largest democracy.
One thing is clear. The Quad is not purely an American foreign policy tool. It is a common asset that is beginning to truly sustain a rules-based order, one that goes far beyond the bounds of the Belt and Road. The Indo-Pacific needs the strong leadership of the U.S. coupled with the interests and assets of the Quad. The Quad summit in Washington demonstrated once again the framework is relevant and resilient.
Note: The authors are prominent lawyers based in New Delhi practising Commercial Disputes Resolution, ADR and General Corporate Law across various Courts and Tribunals throughout India, including but not limited to the Supreme Court of India, Delhi High Court, National Company Law Tribunal Delhi, etc.