Australia, America, Japan, and India could formalise their quadrilateral strategic security ties at an in-person ministerial meeting in Delhi in the coming weeks.
Attending an online seminar at the annual U.S.—India Strategic Partnership Forum on Aug. 31, the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. State Department Stephen Biegun said the Indo-Pacific was lacking strong multilateral structures.
“It is a reality that the Indo-Pacific region is actually lacking in strong multilateral structures. They don’t have anything of the fortitude of NATO or the European Union,” he said.
“The strongest institutions in Asia oftentimes are not inclusive enough, and so … there is certainly an invitation there at some point to formalise a structure like this.”
The move, which in part is intended to counter communist China’s ambition in the Indo-Pacific region, also will play the role of allowing sustained regular communication between countries with shared interests and values, Biegun noted.
Known colloquially as the Quad, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) was first formed in 2007 by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It has since met on a semi-regular basis to discuss regional economic issues and hold joint military drills like the Malabar Exercises in India.
Predominantly an informal strategic forum for the four liberal democracies over the past 13 years, Abe’s goal of establishing the dialogue was to create an Asian arc of democracy—one that could be extended to include virtually all countries that sit on the periphery of China, including the states in Central Asia, Mongolia, the Korean peninsula, and other countries in Southeast Asia.
Reenergised in 2017 by the Trump administration, Biegun said America views the Quad as a way to “create a critical mass around the shared values and interests of those parties in a manner that attracts more countries in the Indo-Pacific, and even from around the world, to be working in a common cause or even ultimately to align in a more structured manner with them.”
Rand senior defence analyst Derek Grossman noted in July: “For the first time in the Quad’s history, the stars are aligning for a harder line on China, and the implications going forward could be significant.”
The Quad now has a concrete resolve to deter China, as all members have recently been on the receiving end of Beijing’s wolf warrior diplomacy, Grossman believes.
But he noted that the recent strengthening of the QUAD would be viewed unfavourably by Beijing as the regime sees the Quad as a military alliance meant to “contain” and threaten China.
Previously, China has placed pressure on Australia not to join with India and the United States, resulting in what some argue was Australia’s withdrawal from the Quad under former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
However, after China’s recent maneuvers of diplomatic coercion, Australia under the Morrison Coalition government has pivoted its foreign policy towards defence capabilities in the Indo-Pacific, investing A$270 billion ($196 billion) in a strategic update for Australia’s defence forces.
It also signed a strategic partnership with India.
At the launch of the Defence Force strategic update in July, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “We must be alert to the full range of current and future threats, including ones in which Australia’s sovereignty and security may be tested.”
The expected meeting in late September will be the first for the Quad members since November 2019. At the time, Australia’s foreign ministry released a statement saying that Quad countries were committed to continuing economic and security coordination to support regional stability and economic growth in the Indo-Pacific.
They also agreed to enhance practical regional cooperation in fields such as maritime, counter-terrorism, cyber, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief.