From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 3- First Quad summit and its significance
The first-ever Quad summit is an important milestone in the geopolitics of the region. The article highlights its significance.
Significance of the first Quad summit
- The maiden Quadrilateral Security Dialogue summit of the leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. on March 12 was a defining moment in Asian geopolitics.
- That it was a meeting at the highest political level, occasioned a productive dialogue, and concluded with a substantive joint statement is indicative of its immediate significance.
- If it leads to tangible action and visible cooperation, it will impact the whole region.
Brief background of the Quad
- The Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 triggered cooperation among the navies and governments of the Quad powers.
- They sought to forge diplomatic cooperation on regional issues in 2006-08.
- But gave up mainly because China objected to it and the hostility to China was not yet a potent enough glue.
- This began to change in 2017 when Beijing’s behaviour turned hostile, climaxing in multiple challenges in 2020.
- This time, U.S. President Joe Biden moved swiftly to host a virtual summit, drawing immediate response from the other three leaders.
5 highlights of the summit
- A more sophisticated approach is being invented, with enhanced emphasis by the U.S. on carrying its allies and strategic partners together.
- The summit’s outcome, therefore, merits close attention for at least five reasons.
1) Compromise over vision of Indo-Pacific
- Past debates over diverse, even differing, visions of the Indo-Pacific are over.
- The joint statement struck a neat compromise:
- To please the U.S. and Japan, it refers to a “free and open” Indo-Pacific, but in the very next sentence it offers an elaboration – “free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion” – that amply satisfy India and Australia.
2) Alignment of approach towards China
- The summit leaders have secured an adequate alignment of their approaches towards China.
- Senior officials gave sufficient hints on this score, reinforced by phrases such as “security challenges” and “the rules-based maritime order in the East and South China Seas” in the joint statement.
- Instead of unidimensional antagonism, the Quad members have preferred a smart blend of competition, cooperation and confrontation.
3) Quad’s commitment development and well being of the region
- The Quad has placed a premium on winning the battle for the hearts and minds of people in the Indo-Pacific region.
- This explains the special initiative to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for every person in need in the region from the western Pacific to eastern Africa.
4) Working groups
- The establishment of three working groups on vaccine partnership; climate change; and critical and emerging technologies and their new standards, innovation and supply chains is a welcome step.
- All this should get the four national establishments into serious policy coordination and action mode, creating new capacities.
- The careful choice of themes reflects a deep understanding of the long-term challenge posed by China and has global implications.
5) Quad working together in future
- The March 12 summit will not be a one-off.
- The leaders have agreed to meet in-person later this year, possibly at an international event within the region.
- Foreign ministers will gather at least once a year; other relevant officials, more often.
- Thus, will grow the habits of the Quad working together for a common vision and with agreed modalities for cooperation.
How ASEAN and China will react
- The summit has been watched closely by the ASEAN capitals. A few of them may express cautious welcome.
- Beijing seems rattled but resigned to the Quad’s new momentum.
- The Chinese see it in negative terms, targeting New Delhi in particular.
Consider the question “With the first-ever summit, the Quad is moving towards a strong coalition. In light of this, examine the challenges India faces as it deepes its engagement in the grouping.”
The summit and ‘The Spirit of the Quad’ – the inspired title of the joint statement – represented a giant leap forward. Now is the time to back political commitment with a strong mix of resolve, energy, stamina and the fresh ideas of stakeholders and experts outside of government to fulfil the promise of the Quad.