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The Quad

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD, also known as the Quad) is an informal strategic forum between the United States, Australia, India, and Japan. The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is an informal strategic forum with semi-regular summits, information exchanges and exercises, including MALABAR. The United States recognizes the changing dynamics in the region, and that is why the name of its regional command changed from U.S. Pacific Command to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. There is no formal military partnership, and the Quad is not an Indo-Pacific NATO.

The idea of the Asia-Pacific as a region is a relatively recent one. It was initially pushed during the 1970s and 1980s by countries such as Japan and Australia that wanted to better bind the United States with the economically vibrant East Asia. Although primarily driven by economics, the idea of the Asia-Pacific has always had a strong underlying security element: keeping the United States as a benign offshore balancer and the main security provider to the region. It also gave Australia an opportunity to bind itself closer to East Asia as a ‘Pacific’ nation if not strictly an ‘Asian’ one.

Asia-Pacific institutions such as ASEAN and its spin-offs and APEC were built without India. Nor did India see itself as part of the Asia-Pacific. India’s trade and investment relationships in East Asia are growing dramatically. India is also developing security relationships throughout the region - primarily with Japan, Vietnam, Singapore and Australia, but also with others. India is now welcomed by many countries in East Asia as an important economic and strategic balance to the growing power of China.

The Quad was initiated by Japan and was designed to bring together some of the world’s most capable democracies to discuss trade and regional security issues. A significant security issue is how the Quad can better deal with challenges presented by China. in the region.

The Indo-Pacific region represents nearly 50 percent of the global population. It is home to some of the most dynamic economies in the world; and poses security challenges that threaten to undermine United States national security interests, regional peace, and global stability. The core tenets of the United States-backed international system are being challenged, including by China’s illegal construction and militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea and coercive economic practices; North Korea’s acceleration of its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities; and the increased presence throughout Southeast Asia of the Islamic State (referred to in this Act as “ISIS”) and other international terrorist organizations that threaten the United States.

Graham Allison, the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, testified in 2017, “As realistic students of history, Chinese leaders recognize that the role the United States has played since World War II as the architect and underwriter of regional stability and security has been essential to the rise of Asia, including China itself. But they believe that as the tide that brought the United States to Asia recedes, America must leave with it. Much as Britain’s role in the Western Hemisphere faded at the beginning of the twentieth century, so must America’s role in Asia as the region’s historic superpower resumes its place.”

The United States National Security Strategy (referred to in this Act as the “National Security Strategy”), which was released in December 2017, states “A geopolitical competition between free and repressive visions of world order is taking place in the Indo-Pacific region. The region, which stretches from the west coast of India to the western shores of the United States, represents the most populous and economically dynamic part of the world. The United States interest in a free and open Indo-Pacific extends back to the earliest days of our republic.”; and

“Our vision for the Indo-Pacific excludes no nation. We will redouble our commitment to established alliances and partnerships, while expanding and deepening relationships with new partners that share respect for sovereignty, fair and reciprocal trade, and the rule of law. We will reinforce our commitment to freedom of the seas and the peaceful resolution of territorial and maritime disputes in accordance with international law. We will work with allies and partners to achieve complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and preserve the non-proliferation regime in Northeast Asia.”

In the face of China’s rising military and economic assertiveness, strengthening of the Quad became increasingly important. As the world addresses the fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, China has opportunistically looked to expand its military footprint across the Indo-Pacific. From the South China Sea to the Himalayas, Beijing continues to use methods of intimidation and territorial aggression to test the resolve of regional actors. In response to these malign actions, the U.S. has signaled its increased commitment to the region with the newly proposed Pacific Deterrence Initiative, which will complement the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) to provide a more robust military presence. However, without coordinated efforts among committed and capable partners, solitary actions will not sufficiently address these ever-evolving security challenges.

The Quad additionally provides an existing institutional framework for increased quadrilateral cooperation on non-security issues. As you know, it was the joint response to the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, the deadliest natural disaster in modern history that led to the first iteration of the Quad. As such, humanitarian aid and disaster relief are natural areas where Quad members can, and should, expand collaborative efforts, especially given the ongoing pandemic. It is critical that the U.S. and India build upon recent discussions among Quad members, as well as New Zealand, South Korea and Vietnam, to coordinate efforts to contain the spread of the virus and develop an effective vaccine.

The pandemic has also exacerbated concerns about China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and resulting debt-trap diplomacy. A free and open Indo-Pacific must come with sustainable investment in the region and infrastructure that is physically secure, financially viable and socially responsible. BRI’s opaque and predatory nature fails to meet these standards. However, given that the Indo-Pacific region’s need for infrastructure will total as much as $50 trillion by 2040, more collaboration among Quad members on infrastructure investment is needed. For instance, the Blue Dot Network (BDN), launched in 2019 by the U.S., Japan and Australia, is an initiative that will bring together governments, the private sector, and civil society to certify projects that uphold global infrastructure principles.

Senior officials from the United States, Australia, India, and Japan met in Bangkok on November 4, 2019, for consultations on collective efforts to advance a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific. The four nations reaffirmed their support for a rules-based order in the region that promotes stability, growth, and economic prosperity. The officials continued productive discussions held at the September 26 Quad Ministerial, advancing practical collaboration on counter-terrorism, cyber, development finance, maritime security, humanitarian assistance, and disaster response. They explored ways to enhance coordination on quality infrastructure based upon international standards such as the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment, and discussed strengthening partnerships with existing regional frameworks.

Senior officials from the United States, Australia, India, and Japan met virtually on September 25, 2020, for consultations on collective efforts to advance a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. The four democracies discussed ways to work together to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, promote transparency and counter disinformation, and protect the rules-based order the region has long enjoyed. Noting the importance of digital connectivity and secure networks, the officials discussed ways to promote the use of trusted vendors, particularly for fifth generation (5G) networks. They explored ways to enhance coordination on counterterrorism, maritime security, cyber security, and regional connectivity, as well as quality infrastructure based upon international best practices, such as the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment. Participants also highlighted the need to improve supply chains in sectors including critical minerals, medical supplies, and pharmaceuticals.

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