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Politics & Security

[All Politics is Global] Bolster the Quad as Pillar of Asia's Deterrence

It is time for the Quad to jointly question and oppose China's relentless attempts at land and maritime territorial grabs.

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Quad "Family Photo" at the Quad Leaders' Meeting on May 24, 2022. (Photo by Yasuhiro Yajima).

All Politics is Global” is a new column by Japan-based international affairs expert Dr Monika Chansoria. One of JAPAN Forward's earliest contributing authors, Dr Chansoria is widely read for her analysis of risks and changes in the world around us. In her first column, the focus is on the Quad. 

In the Indo-Pacific region and around the world, the Quad is working to reshape the ability of its four constituent partners to promote peace and protect the rules-based international order. 

This shall come to fruition through increased investments in each partner's enhanced roles, missions, and capabilities, and through closer defense cooperation

Taking on collective decisions and enhancing collective capacities should be the way forward for the Quad. For 2023 onward, the group of four should focus on a strategy of converging with closer linkages to protect shared interests and values as they address common challenges to regional and global stability. 

The pace of geostrategic developments threatening to alter the status quo in the Indo-Pacific is alarming. Wherein the interests of stakeholders are growing, the concurrently rising geopolitical capacities of individual actors are inviting greater competition.

The Quad in itself can be described as an interesting and rare 21st century oddity in the realm of various regional security setups. This comes mainly since it has built a unique space for itself in the existing segments of global/regional alliances and partnerships. 

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Alliances, particularly and peculiarly, remain an American concept. And there is a good enough reason for it, given the long history of United States' alliances in world politics. For the US, partnerships — primarily treaties and alliances — are its most vital strategic asset.

Quad All Politics is Global
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a gathering to celebrate the 75th anniversary of India's Independence. March 2021. (REUTERS/Amit Dave)

Autonomous India's Membership in the Quad

Interestingly, this does not exactly harmonize from where India is coming from. Being a post-colonial society, India has been rather resolute in maintaining strategic autonomy and an independent foreign policy decision-making stance. Combined, these aim to maximize its choices and give it space to operate as widely as possible. 

Thus, there is a characteristic superpower in the form of the United States, and an idiosyncratic rising power, India. And the two, despite the above-mentioned divergence in identifying the name of their association, are cooperating vividly to secure and stabilize the Indo-Pacific in the form of the Quad. 

Along with partners Japan and Australia, India and the United States are gauging the pace and direction of changes in the geopolitics and geoeconomics of the Indo-Pacific. And with adequate coordination, they are formulating their responses.

The peculiarity of the Quad is underscored further in that the US, Australia, and Japan are long-term traditional treaty allies. For three treaty allies to work together with a non-treaty ally is a novel experiment.

Often, the Indian position on Ukraine, which is strikingly different from its Quad partners, is brought to light, thereby leading to questions on India's position in the Quad. However, these do not make India a lesser Quad member. Primarily this is because Ukraine has never been the fundamental basis of Quad's formation.

Quad All Politics is Global
ASEAN, along with Quad members, on the South China Sea.

Placing the Quad in Asia and ASEAN

As the Quad's scope and space for operations has grown ー in the past five years particularly ー the need to harmonize the short-term and long-term priorities of its constituent partners has been profound. However, the common challenges should not fundamentally jeopardize the direction and strategy of the Quad partners' sense of their own. 

Meanwhile, the course of the Asian regional order, with all its inherent regional complexities, shall benefit most by a continuing working arrangement of the Quad members.

The Quad summit meeting in Tokyo in May 2022 renewed the organization's steadfast commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific that is inclusive and resilient. It notably outlined how, during the COVID-19 pandemic, tendencies for unilateral actions among states that challenged principles of freedom, rule of law, democratic values, sovereignty, and territorial integrity were on full display. 

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The referential pointer was on China for challenging the international rules-based order, and for its threat of use of force as it unilaterally attempts a change in the status quo in its territorial disputes. 

The Quad Joint Leaders' Statement committed to cooperate with partners in the region who share the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. Furthermore, it emphasized support for ASEAN unity and centrality, and for the practical implementation of ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

All Politics is Global
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida gives the keynote address at the Shangri-la Dialogue Asian security meeting in Singapore on June 10, 2022. (Kyodo)

Global Concern for the Peaceful Status Quo

In what could be interpreted as expanding the purview of the Quad, the leaders welcomed the European Union's Joint Communication on the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific (announced in September 2021) and increased European engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.

In 2023, the Quad should prepare to meet the rising challenges to the maritime rules-based order, including in the East China Sea, South China Sea, and the Indian Ocean Region

It needs to stand and function together in strongly opposing any coercive, provocative, or unilateral action that seeks to change the status quo by force and increase tensions in the area. For example, it must oppose the militarization of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard vessels and maritime militia. Along with this, it must prevent efforts to disrupt other countries' offshore resource exploitation activities. 

From being mere rhetorical words meant for official joint statements, the operational spirit of the Quad should be demonstrated on ground. Most of all, this should be when any of the constituent Quad partner nations is amid such a security situation.

Predictably, incidents of China's relentless attempts at land and maritime territorial grabs are likely to continue through 2023. It is time for the Quad to jointly question and oppose China's revisionist policies and posturing across Asia. 

As a bottom line, the Quad must consider bolstering its role, both as a promoter and pillar of regional deterrence. This is the minimum necessary to ensure its joint vision of securing a free and open Indo-Pacific.

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Author: Dr Monika Chansoria

Dr Monika Chansoria is a Tokyo-based senior fellow at The Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA). Find her column, “All Politics is Global,” and other articles on JAPAN Forward, and follow her on Twitter @MonikaChansoria.

Stay informed about the latest developments in contemporary Asian security, Great Power politics in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, with insights from Dr Monika Chansoria.

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Stay informed about the latest developments in contemporary Asian security, Great Power politics in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, with insights from Dr Monika Chansoria.

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