THE QUAD 2.0—How Feasible Is It?


Senior Research Fellow of JFSS/ Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge Dr. Rupakjyoti BORAH

 It was in 2007 that the Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) was the first convened on the sidelines of an ARF(ASEAN Regional Forum) meeting in Manila. However, soon after the initial meeting of the Quad, its fortunes fell with the members dropping out after a period of initial bonhomie, mostly due to protestations from Beijing. This in itself was a classic case of the baby being thrown out with the bathwater.
 However, since then, a lot of water has flown down the Brahmaputra and the priorities of the Quad member countries have changed. The intervening years have seen many developments which have changed the security scenario in the Indo-Pacific. This has been specially seen in the rise of China and in Sino-US tensions under President Trump. The Quad was later revived in November 2017. It is new version of the Quad which is referred to as Quad 2.0. Since then it has seen remarkable progress with the foreign ministers of the Quad countries meeting last year in Tokyo. However, there are quite a few challenges before the Quad 2.0 can reach its full potential.
 First, the most important issue will be how the US administration under President Joe Biden deals with the China threat. We will have to wait and watch if he continues to keep up the pressure on China, both in the economic and the strategic realm.
 Second, the next important factor will be how countries like India, Japan and Australia react to the China challenge. When the earlier version of the Quad had been set up in 2007, the members had developed cold feet after the initial period.
 Third, for Quad 2.0, the leadership of the US will be critical as the US is the sole superpower in today's world. However, the US at the moment seems to be mired in many problems of its own, especially in the domestic realm after the US Presidential elections.
 Fourth, it remains to be seen how the Suga Administration in Japan deals with China. Beijing remains a test case for Tokyo as it aims to host the Olympics later this year. In addition, tourists from China form the biggest chunk of incoming tourists to Japan and this is a fact that needs to be noted.
 Fifth, there is also the potential to expand the Quad 2.0, with the possible inclusion of Vietnam and countries like Indonesia. Whether it will be possible to include these countries is something that only time will tell.
How Feasible is QUAD 2.0?
 During his first term in office, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had given a famous speech before the Indian Parliament titled “Confluence of the Two Seas”.1 In this famous speech he had noted that “the Pacific and the Indian Oceans are now bringing about a dynamic coupling as seas of freedom and of prosperity. A "broader Asia" that broke away geographical boundaries is now beginning to take on a distinct form.” 
 Since then, the international relations of the Indo-Pacific have changed rapidly. While on the one hand, China has been playing an increasingly assertive role in the Indo-Pacific, the role of the United States has been called into question since it has been mostly busy with developments at home, in line with its “America First” strategy. During that time, Japanese Prime Minister Abe enlarged the Indo-Pacific vision as the strategic concept of “Freedom and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” by an address by Prime Minister Abe at the opening session of the 6th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) at Nairobi, Kenya in August 27, 20162.
 Hence, it has been left to the other powers like India, Japan and Australia to take the lead when it comes to initiatives like Quad 2.0. In these past years, all these countries have had disputes with China. While in the case of India, this had become violent and had led to clashes along the Sino-Indian border earlier last year, Japan has also been at the receiving end of incursions from the Chinese side in the area around the Senkaku Islands.
 In the case of Australia too, it has run into issues with China especially after the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked for an independent enquiry3 into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak. Since then, China has retaliated in the economic sphere against Australia.
 The increasing aggressive behaviour exhibited by China is also seen in the behaviour as if its diplomats who are engaged in the so-called “wolf-warrior” diplomacy as seen in the attacks on other countries, which is by itself very undiplomatic.
 Meanwhile, Japan will play a pro-active role in Quad 2.0 under the Suga Administration, especially in the light of its focus on a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”. In addition, it has been pooling its efforts along with countries like India to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). It has been more than 75 years since the United Nations was first set up and hence there is an urgent need for its reformation to address current day realities.
 Another factor that is bringing these countries closer is China's Belt and Road Initiative(BRI) which aims at building a network of communication nodes centred around Beijing's interests. India, Japan and the US are not a part of the BRI and have expressed a desire to look at alternate ways of creating infrastructure in a responsible way. 
Growing Cooperation
 There has been growing cooperation between India, Japan, Australia and the United States in other fields too. For example, Australia has now been included as a permanent member of the Malabar naval exercises. Already a trilateral dialogue has been going on between India, Japan and the United States for quite a while now. There is great complementarity between the interests of India, Japan, Australia and the United States in the FOIP.
 Be that as it may, the Quad 2.0 is an idea whose time has come. It is now incumbent on India, Japan, the US and Australia to take the initiative to protect democratic interests in the Indo-Pacific. 
1 “Confluence of the Two Seas,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs(MOFA) Japan, (accessed on 09 January 2021).
2  “Address by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Opening Session of the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) (Saturday, August 27, 2016) (Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), Nairobi, Kenya).” MOFA Japan, (accessed on 09 January 2021).
3  “Australian PM Scott Morrison demands inquiry into the origin of Covid-19.” The Hindu Business Line, (accessed on 09 January 2021).
Dr Rupakjyoti Borah is a Senior Research Fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, Tokyo. His forthcoming book is The Strategic Relations between India, the United States and Japan in the Indo-Pacific: When Three is Not a Crowd. He has also authored two other books. He has also been a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge, the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), Japan and the Australian National University. The views expressed here are personal. Twitter @rupakj