Home The Squad of the “QUAD” in Indo-Pacific

The Squad of the “QUAD” in Indo-Pacific

The Squad of the ‘QUAD’ in Indo-Pacific



The construct of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ region has finally entered the IR lexicon as witnessed in US President Donald Trump’s call for a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, a region where independent nations could “thrive in freedom and peace” and all states “play by the rules”.[1] Recently, in his maiden five-nation tour to Asia, Trump categorically labeled Asia as that of Indo-Pacific rather than Asia-Pacific- shifting the geopolitical compass from the Pacific-Atlantic to that of Pacific-Indian Ocean. What is noteworthy is that such a proactive endorsement of ‘Indo-Pacific’ by Trump comes in the aftermath of the US withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) as well as debunking of America’s ‘Asia re-balance/pivot strategy”. Is ‘Indo-Pacific’ the new definition of America’s Asia Policy?


Given this pertinent query, a significant corollary can be drawn to that of the announcement of the US-India-Japan-Australia “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue” (or the Quad) on the sidelines of the 12th East Asia Summit in November 2017. To note, the genesis of the ‘quad’ was first floated in 2007 by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the pretext of the “Confluence of the Two Seas”.  Howsoever, since then it didn’t get any pragmatic shape given Beijing’s protest to such a concert of power. In view of this, the sudden Quad call after an interregnum of ten years with having outlawed the China factor does hold significant implications.


What contributes to this ‘Indo-Pacific’ policy intervention? This can be understood in the changing context of the global balance of power which is witnessed in the relative decline of US dominance in the region, the interplay of new forces such as the rise of China, an emerging India, a proactive Japan, a belligerent North Korea, the threat of terror and the growing importance of the Indian Ocean- shaping the emerging security environment. However, the primary factor is the ‘China challenge’ as witnessed in China’s growing assertiveness and muscle-flexing behaviour in the South China Sea, East China Sea, the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the recent Doklam stand-off with India - thus, making the ‘quad’ a potent counterweight measure. Furthermore, the very fact of excluding China, a key and major player from the quadrilateral security framework does quantify the very rational behind the making of the Quad. Does this ‘Chinese exclusivity’ make the Quad a new kind of 21st Century security alliance? Owing to such an exclusion, Beijing has raised concern that it is “not directed to a third-party” given the “relevant proposals should be open and inclusive and should be conducive to win-win cooperation and avoid politicising or excluding the relevant parties”.[2] To note, China opposes such security frameworks under the logic of Cold-War mentality.


The exclusivity logic is further witnessed in the agenda of the first quadrilateral meeting, wherein the core issues concerned: rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific, respect for international law, freedom of navigation and overflight, increase in connectivity, counter terrorism, upholding military security and curtailing North Korea’s nuclear belligerence.[3] Therefore, faced with the common China challenge, the central goal of Quad is to work together to maintain maritime security through greater collaboration based on shared support for peace, democracy, prosperity, and a rules-based international order.


To say that the Quad is any kind of new strategy remains questionable. As, except for Australia, the other three countries- US, India and Japan are already involved in certain security or strategic frameworks that aim at counterbalancing China. To say so, India, Japan, and the United States already have a “Trilateral Partnership” given their convergence of interests in the Indo-Pacific security architecture. This partnership is functioned in the form of the “India-Japan-US Trilateral Malabar Naval Exercise”. This constitutes a symbolic and significant measure to combat the China challenge as well as aims at shaping the Indo-Pacific security architecture. To add further, India and Japan have jointly announced the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) which is premised on the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy”. Posing a counter to China-led BRI, under AAGC, India and Japan aim to build a sea corridor via the Indian Ocean that integrates the economies of South, Southeast, and East Asia with Oceania and Africa. Finally with the Quad coming into play, it will be a boost to these existing security equations between the three powers.


What does it lead to? Undoubtedly, Indo-Pacific has become the nerve centre of 21st century great power politics, wherein China acts as a common challenge for the other big and small powers in the region. In this regard, the China factor raises concerns on the feasibility of the Quad as a countervailing force to check China’s assertiveness given each of the four players have strong bilateral interests with China. That is to argue, when individual interests are interlinked, there lies heavy costs of internal contradictions- making the Quad come with some “strings attached”.

*Amrita Jash is an Associate Fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.


[1]“Trump Discovers ‘Indo-Pacific’ on Asia Tour in Boost for India”, Bloomberg, 13 November 2017, URL:  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-13/trump-


[2] “China hopes quadrilateral meeting on 'Indo-Pacific' concept not directed against it”, The Times of India, 13 November 2017, URL: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/china-hopes-quadrilateral-meet


[3] Kallol Bhattacherjee, “India, Japan, U.S., Australia hold first ‘Quad’ talks at manila ahead of ASEAN Summit”, the Hindu, 13 November 2017, URL: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-highlights-indo-




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Dr. Amrita Jash
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