Leaders of the “quad” – the United States, India, Australia and Japan – met in Tokyo on Tuesday, cementing an alliance designed to deal with China’s push across the Asia-Pacific region.
The group has dominated and declined over the years, but gained new traction in 2020 following the deadly border clashes between India and China and the recent escalation of Australian diplomatic and trade clashes with Beijing.
Members stressed that it is not an “Asian NATO” and portrayed it as a team that could offer China alternatives to others in the region, including Covid-19 resources, disaster relief and cyber security.
2004 Tsunami relief roots
The four countries rallied for the first relief operation after a devastating tsunami hit the east coast of India following the January 26, 2004 earthquake in Indonesia, which killed at least 230,000 people.
Three years later, the countries formed a four-way security dialogue. The then Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, is said to be the driving force behind this effort.
The first major task of the Quad was to conduct joint naval exercises under the existing US-India bilateral Malabar exercise format.
But a year later, then-Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd withdrew from the new alliance, unwilling to be part of a group that has publicly challenged China, which has become Australia’s strongest economic partner.
Australia is back in the fold
A decade later, China’s increasingly aggressive pressure to build a regional network and project its military strength – especially in the South China Sea – as well as its violent border clashes with India, has brought the four together, making Canberra now a more committed partner. .
They all took part in the 2020 Malabar exercise, making the group increasingly look like a military alliance.
Outraged by Beijing’s response, it branded it as a Cold War-type organization dedicated to holding China accountable. Foreign Minister Wang Yi likened the grouping to “sea foam”, something that would create waves but quickly disappear.
Although the Trump administration made some efforts to keep the quad afloat, President Joe Biden called the first summit of quad leaders in March 2021, a few weeks after he took office.
In September 2021, the four met in person in Washington, furthering the grouping – but still without forming a formal organization.
It was an example of Washington’s new approach to building alliances of countries and organizations based on specific regional and global needs, rather than the traditional security alliance.
This means, Washington says, the quad could work with other groupings, such as ASEAN, when interests overlap.
Is attracting India
For the United States, Australia, and Japan, Quad India is a long-term love affair. New Delhi has traditionally emphasized its non-aligned position in the competition for supremacy.
The deadly fighting that began in 2019 between Chinese and Indian troops in a disputed Himalayan border region seems to have pushed India away from that position.
But India, citing “neutrality”, has continued to provide material support to Russia in the wake of the Ukraine invasion, creating a new source of friction.
Kurt Campbell, the White House national security coordinator for the Asia-Pacific region, said in November that India was an “important, vital member” of the Quartet.
In its strategic plan for the region, the United States has stopped calling it “Asia-Pacific” and is now scholarly referring to it as “Indo-Pacific”.
Vaccines and climate change
But officials in four countries say the quad has to pay more than the defense. No one is pushing for a formal alliance – India, analysts say, is deeply wary of it – and doubts that it could effectively challenge Beijing’s military might.
Instead, the four democracies are looking at other “soft power” activities that propose the rest of the region as opposed to authoritarian China.
The Covid-19 epidemic has focused on grouping for greater funding. The four countries have used the Quad Framework to commit to distributing 1.3 billion vaccine doses, with more than 485 million already distributed.
Other issues they are working on in quad format are: “clean” shipping, combating global warming and building more secure IT and Internet infrastructure.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)