Quad of democracies can be a force for good

There is no doubt that the Chinese threat was the reason for the Quad to become a robust partnership

By T P Sreenivasan

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Sun 29 May 2022, 10:42 PM

The deteriorating global situation and the continuing Ukraine war have transformed Quad from a security dialogue to a formal partnership of four countries, Australia, Japan, India, and the US with a broad agenda to confront the looming political and economic crisis. The Quad has agreed upon the fundamental principles that will determine its approach and launched several initiatives, which will strengthen their defence and economic capabilities. With its expanded agenda, the Quad has become a “force for good”, as Indian PM Narendra Modi has characterized it.

However, there is no doubt that the Chinese threat was the reason for the Quad to become a robust partnership. After China and Russia declared an alliance without boundaries and Russia attacked Ukraine, Russia also became a matter of concern for the Quad. Russia raised objection even to the name Indo-Pacific and preferred to continue to call it Asia-Pacific. The western countries in the Quad were interested in turning the Quad into a democratic force, but India’s neutrality in the Ukraine conflict prevented the Quad from uniting against Russia. Both China and Russia issued warnings just before and during the Tokyo summit against the Quad becoming an adjunct of NATO. Chinese and Russian jets are reported to have flown over Tokyo while the Quad was in session.

Concern over Ukraine and Russia were voiced by the US, Japan and Australia, but India maintained its position that the focus should be on ending the conflict and the tragic humanitarian crisis and its negative impact on the Indo-Pacific. The differences between India and the rest of the Quad were narrowed and a common agenda was agreed upon. The visit of PM Modi to Europe before the Quad summit may have prepared the ground for the new approach. At the same time, the Quad announced several measures to counter China, without naming it, to enable the partners to monitor the Indo-Pacific region to ensure peace and stability there.

The Joint Statement states that the countries “strongly support the principles of freedom, rule of law, democratic values, sovereignty and territorial integrity, peaceful settlement of disputes without resorting to threat or use of force, any unilateral attempt to change the status quo, and freedom of navigation and overflight, all of which are essential to the peace, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and to the world. We will continue to act decisively together to advance these principles in the region and beyond. We reaffirm our resolve to uphold the international rules-based order where countries are free from all forms of military, economic and political coercion.” The reiteration of these principles makes it clear that the Quad does not approve much of what is happening in the world and the criticism of some of the actions of China and Russia is implicit in the Joint Statement.

One of the measures adopted was the Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA). It will offer a real time, integrated and cost- effective maritime domain awareness picture and it will transform the ability of the Quad countries themselves and their partners in the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, and the Indian Ocean region to fully monitor developments.

The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific that is inclusive and resilient, and vowed to work tirelessly to deliver tangible results for the region.

Going further afield, the Quad supported the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and condemned North Korea’s destabilizing nuclear and missile tests. It also called for the immediate end to violence in Myanmar and restoration of democracy there even though India has been more patient with the military junta and given humanitarian assistance to the people.

The Quad took a strong position against terrorist attacks including cross -border attacks and named the Mumbai and Pathankot attacks. As for Afghanistan, it demanded that Afghan territory must never again be used to shelter or train terrorists.

Global health and combating Covid-19 have been assigned a high priority in the activities of the Quad. Infrastructure development and addressing of debt issues figure prominently among its concerns.

The Quad will steadfastly implement the Paris Agreement and deliver on the outcomes of COP26.It launched the “Quad Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Package (Q-CHAMP)” with “mitigation” and “adaptation” as its two themes. Advancing cyber security has also been identified as a priority for improving the defence capabilities of the partners.

The Quad today has a comprehensive agenda, going beyond a security dialogue as non-conventional threats to human security have been on the increase. The Quad, with a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, has emphasized the importance of fundamental values and principles, and committed to work tirelessly to deliver tangible results to the region. It has also agreed to maintain a continuous dialogue among themselves, including a summit in Australia next year.

(T.P. Sreenivasan is a former Ambassador of India. He is presently Mentor and Adjunct Professor of Eminence at the Somaiya Vidyavihar University, Mumbai and Director General of the Kerala International Centre in Thiruvananthapuram.)

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