- GS-2: Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
- GS-2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Context: Ahead of the second in-person summit of QUAD, India joined the US-led initiative of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
What were the origins of QUAD?
- The grouping’s informal origins can be traced to 2004.
- In the wake of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami, Australia, India, Japan and the US launched an ad-hoc humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) mission, which allowed them to come together operationally. Since then the four navies have worked together on several occasions.
- The Quad was formally initiated in 2007 at the prompting of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.
- Formal Quad meetings were not possible following strong objections from China in 2007.
What were the other reasons which made QUAD a non-starter in 2007?
- The American establishment still believed that it could, somehow, persuade China to become a ‘responsible stake-holder’
- US also required Chinese goodwill in dealing with America’s priorities — the nuclear issue with North Korea and Iran, and the War on Terror – and did not want to antagonize China with QUAD
- Japan and Australia were riding the China Boom to prosperity.
- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a champion of the Quad grouping, resigned in September 2007. The Quad lost its most vocal champion.
- If India was ambivalent at the time, it was because this mirrored the uncertainties of others.
- As a result, the idea merely remained on the table and there was no clearly enunciated concept or proposed structures.
- Between Quad 1.0 and its revival 10 years on, the four countries realigned with minilaterals. Japan and India became important fixtures in two such arrangements. A steady string of “2+2” bilaterals and trilaterals among foreign and defence ministers took off.
What was the real intention behind China’s objection?
- Dubbed it as Cold-War Type Coalition: The Chinese, however, labelled it as an Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization reminding world about the fears of cold war era.
- QUAD would interfere with China’s Indo-Pacific plans: The real reason for China’s hyper-reaction was out of concern that such a grouping would “out” China’s plans for naval expansion by focusing on the Indo-Pacific maritime space.
- Grand Maritime Plans: China was hoping that its naval build-up might slip under the radar if QUAD become a non-starter because the Americans were distracted by continental challenges including Russia, Afghanistan and Iran, and would not look sea-ward.
What happened once the idea of Quad 1.0 had died down?
China gained in confidence to reveal its hand.
- It advanced a new claim — the Nine-Dash Line — in the South China Sea.
- China undertook the rapid kind of warship building activity reminiscent of Germany before 1914.
- China built its first overseas base in Djibouti.
- It also started systematically to explore the surface and sub-surface environment in the Indian Ocean beyond the Malacca Straits.
What led to revival of QUAD 2.0?
- The manner of China’s dismissal of the Arbitral Award in the dispute with the Philippines on the South China Sea and brazen militarization of islands by China once again brought the four countries onto the same page.
- During this period, each of the Quad countries saw their share of China aggression. India dealt with four Chinese border agressions in 2103, 2014, 2017 and 2020.
- In 2015 Japan was formally admitted to make Malabar (India-US naval exercise) a tri-lateral event
- In 2017, Japan announced plans to propose a top-level dialogue with the US, India and Australia. The stated intention was to counter Chinese aggression.
- In 2019, first foreign ministerial-level meeting of Quad 2.0 took place
- In 2020, all four navies participated in their first joint exercise in over a decade, thus firmly setting the ground for QUAD 2.0
- In March 2021, US President Joe Biden convened a virtual Quad meeting attended by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
- They formed working groups on Covid-19 vaccines, climate change, and technological innovation and supply-chain resilience.
- In September 2021, first leader level in-person summit, took place at the White House, USA.
- The pandemic, its controversial origins in China, and the resulting disruption of the global supply chain have also been instrumental in bringing the four closer.
How is China responding to QUAD 2.0?
- Beijing’s initial reaction to the Quad was to dismiss it, saying the group would “dissipate like sea foam”. But it later sharpened its criticism of the group, calling it the “Asian Nato”.
- China’s endeavour is to conflate the Quad with the Indo-Pacific vision, and link both to the so-called China Containment Theory, which is actually not the case.
- The Indo-Pacific Vision is an overarching framework that is being discussed in a transparent manner, with the objective of advancing everyone’s economic and security interests.
- The Quad, on the other hand, is a plurilateral mechanism between countries that share interest on specific matters. There are other such mechanisms in the region.
- In 2016, China itself established a Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan.
- More recently, China has established Quadrilateral Cooperation with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal.
- Beijing is investing heavily in strengthening its navy and its recent security pact with the Solomon Islands has stoked fears in Australia.
- The agreement said Chinese warships would be permitted to dock on the islands and that Beijing could send security forces “to assist in maintaining social order”.
What are the major challenges for the QUAD grouping?
- Distraction of Europe
- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shaken up the old world order, reshaping geopolitics across the world.
- As the leader of the Western alliance against Russia, the US is now deeply engaged with the war. It has already committed $54 billion to the war effort.
- The reinvigoration of Europe and NATO in the wake of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine has made new demands on US attention and resources, prompting questions about American appetite to take on two rivals — Russia and China — at the same time.
- This European distraction might adversely impact US commitment to the Quad and the Indo-Pacific.
- The war in Ukraine also poses an internal challenge in the Quad. Three members — US, Japan and Australia — have taken an unequivocal stand against Russia’s aggression, while India’s position has been one of studied neutrality that calls for respect of territorial sovereignty and integrity and the UN charter, but does not criticise Russia.
- Different Threat Perceptions of China
- While China does not find mention in any official statements of the Quad by name, the four nations are joined by the shared interest of creating a strategic balance of power in the region.
- QUAD members want to protect their interests in the Indo-Pacific region from China’s subversion of the international order in the region and a bid to establish its own set of rules.
- Every Quad statement has proxy references to China — in the repeated emphasis on a “rules based international order” and a “free and open” Indo-Pacific.
- However, each Quad member views the Chinese threat differently.
- For the US, it is about trade and Taiwan.
- For Australia too, trade was the biggest issue until the recent establishment of a Chinese military base in the Solomon Islands brought a new dimension.
- Japan and India are closest to China, and both face aggressive Chinese claims to territory.
- India is the only one with a long “hot” land border with China, full of contested territorial claims, and the only one to have been in a recent military encounter with the Chinese Army, in eastern Ladakh.
- India also faces challenges from China’s inroads in its neighbours Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
- China’s “iron-clad” friendship with Pakistan has additionally brought home the threat of a two-front war.
- On the other hand, India is a partner with Beijing in several multilateral forums, including Brics and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. This creates confusion as to what are the priorities of India’s foreign policy interests.
- Ukraine war may “send Russia into China’s arms” and Beijing might be able to persuade Moscow to increase its presence in the Indo-Pacific. If that happens, it will upset Delhi’s interests.
- Therefore, how to deal with China remains the central question for Quad.
- Non-Security Initiative
- Cutting-edge technology, pharmaceuticals and infrastructure have been described as “key battlegrounds” in the contest with China.
- The 2021 Quad summit threw up an array of proposals intended to leverage the economic, scientific and technological capabilities of the four countries.
- Covid vaccine manufacture; climate change initiatives, a Quad infrastructure group, cooperation in cyber-security, use of satellites for information sharing were all listed.
- However, over the last year, the procedural difficulties of pulling together on these initiatives have become apparent, and progress has been slow.
- The Quad has come a long way but it still has an informal structure and has no secretariat. The grouping has maintained it is not a security alliance, while the clamour for elevating the grouping to security alliance keeps growing.
What is Indo-Pacific Economic Framework that India has recently joined?
- IPEF is not a traditional trade agreement. IPEF will consist of four “pillars” of work or four modules:
- fair and resilient trade (encompassing seven subtopics, including labour, environmental, and digital standards, with some binding commitments);
- supply chain resilience;
- infrastructure, clean energy, and decarbonization;
- tax and anti-corruption.
- Flexibility of signing Modules: Countries would have to sign up to all of the components within a module, but do not have to participate in all modules
- No Market Access: The IPEF will not include market access commitments such as lowering tariff barriers, as the agreement is “more of an Administrative arrangement”
- No need of Congress Approval: US Congressional approval, which is a must for trade agreements, is not mandatory for this.
- Membership: Besides India and the US, the IPEF consists of Japan, Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Significance of IPEF
- New vehicle of engagement after US withdrawal from TPP: The IPEF is also seen as a means by which the US is trying to regain credibility in the region after former US President Donald Trump pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership TPP. Biden Administration is projecting IPEF as the new US vehicle for re-engagement with East Asia and South East Asia. The US business community welcomes the IPEF as it gets us back in the trade game.
- Ensuring Economic footprint of USA: IPEF is intended to respond to criticism from US allies and partners that USA’s has “all guns and no butter” strategy (i.e high focus on security & low focus on economic component), which had given China an opportunity to use its economic clout to pressure other countries.
- Helps Counter China’s Economic Dominance: Countries across the Indo-Pacific have been urging US to develop an economic strategy to help counter China, which is rapidly increasing its power and trade presence in the region. IPEF provides US to bolster its economic presence in the region.
Mains Practice Question – QUAD has the potential to shift India’s foreign policy paradigm so as to meet the needs of evolving geopolitical order. Critically analyse.
Note: Write answers to this question in the comment section.