Clipped from: https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/first-edit/a-more-concrete-quad-now-905364.htmlIndia’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put on face masks as they attend a meeting in Tokyo, Japan October 6, 2020. Kiyo
With Australia set to join the Indian, American and Japanese navies in the upcoming Malabar exercises, co-operation among the Quad countries looks more concrete. The naval exercise, which will take place in November, will be historic; this is the first time that all the Quad countries are participating. Set in motion in 1992 as a bilateral drill between India and the US, it turned trilateral with Japan joining in 2015. The four nations have been engaging diplomatically so far under the Quad rubric. That their militaries will join hands now, even if only for a drill, is a step forward. Cooperation has been limited so far as one or the other of the Quad countries has been reluctant to ruffle Beijing’s feathers at different times. After participating in joint exercises with India in 2007, Australia pulled away, wary of evoking Chinese displeasure. India, too, has been reticent about participating in a grouping directed against China. China’s rising belligerence, especially vis-à-vis India in recent months, has forced the Quad countries to shed such inhibitions, triggering a new keenness in them to join hands.
Although all four countries perceive a threat from China, uncertainties remain. Their objectives differ. While the US would like to use Quad to retain its dominance in the Indo-Pacific, the others are keen to work together to ensure that the Indo-Pacific remains free and inclusive to all. There is uncertainty over commitment, too. Should the US cut a trade deal with China, its motivation to lead the Quad could diminish. Would it stand by India if its own ties with China improve? India also apprehends that in the event of a war with China, the others may not be willing to risk their own relations with Beijing to support India meaningfully. At best, India’s Quad partners would provide intelligence inputs.
The Quad’s value to India in the maritime domain is understood. However, India’s security challenges are primarily continental. Thus, the Quad may not be that useful to India in dealing with the kind of challenges that a border war with China entails. More than its value in the military domain, the Quad holds potential in the economic and technological domains. India could find collaboration with its Quad partners beneficial in building up an alternative global supply chain and reducing trade dependency on China. Delhi and Tokyo are already seriously exploring such collaboration. They should take this further with the US and Australia, too. Engagement on multiple tracks, rather than a focus on the military dimension alone, is the best way forward for the Quad, or even the proposed Quad Plus.