By: Aqib Rehman, Research Analyst, GSDN
The Quad summit between the top leadership of India, Australia, Japan and the United States of America was canceled as the US President Joe Biden cut short his Asia trip due to the ongoing debt ceiling crises in America. However, the leaders met in Hiroshima to primarily discuss the Indo-Pacific region and the world at large. They also issued a joint statement.
What is Quad? The 4 democratic countries vis. India, Japan, Australia and the United States having found a common ground in the form of democracy came together to form this grouping in order to support the common interest of unhindered maritime trade and security. The group of these countries aims to ensure that the Indo-Pacific region remains free from any security issue, open for all the regional players and all the countries in this region prosper. The idea of Quad was first mooted by late Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe in 2007. However, the idea could not be materialized as Australia pulled out of it, apparently due to Chinese pressure. Finally in 2017, India, Australia, the US and Japan, came together and formed this “quadrilateral” coalition. The summit in Japan’s Hiroshima was the third in-person of the leadership.
What are its focus principles? The main principle of this group is to keep the strategic sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any military or political influence. Strategically speaking, this has been viewed by some of the Chinese observers as a coalition to reduce the dominance of China in the Indo-Pacific region. It also believes in the principle of rules based international order wherein no single country dictates the terms to its neighboring countries or to the international system in large. It also concerns itself with ensuring the freedom of navigation in the international maritime roots and keeping in check various security challenges. Liberal trading system is another main objective of this group. This became more important after world saw disruptions in the supply chain due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the trade rivalry between the world’s two largest economies. In addition to the above objectives, the coalition discusses various contemporary global issues at the ministerial and the top leadership level. These issues include and are not limited to critical and emerging technologies, connectivity and infrastructure, cyber security, maritime security, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, climate change, pandemic and education.
The 2023 summit in Hiroshima
Indo-Pacific remained at the core of discussions and the leaders in the joint statement reaffirmed their commitment to Free and Open Indo-Pacific and making it resilient. The leaders committed their countries for the development of Indo-Pacific region by supporting its stability and prosperity. The shared vision of maintaining dominance free area where no country is dominated and no country dominates others was reemphasized. The importance of regional institutions like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) was acknowledged and quad partners will work with these institutions.
Climate change was considered as a single largest threat to the humanity and the Quad countries pledged their support to the Pacific countries in fighting and finding solutions of the climate change. Quad countries and the Pacific nations will work together in the areas of climate action, ocean health, resilient infrastructure, maritime security and financial integrity. While defining their positive and practical agenda, the leaders recognized the urgency of resolving the climate crises. In this regard they will focus on climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience efforts. This will be done under the directions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. Quad Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Package (Q-CHAMP) will be utilized to increase the Indo-Pacific’s reach to the climate finance and climate smart technology. Referring to the extent of support provided by the quad countries to the Indo-Pacific countries which included some 400 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, they announced launching a broad health security partnership. This partnership will focus on strengthening the coordination and collaboration in enhancing the health security in the Indo-Pacific region. Supporting the health workforce development, disease surveillance, and electronic health information systems and coordination on outbreak responses was affirmed.
Quad’s stand on global issues
In the Indo-Pacific region, maritime peace and stability is of utmost importance. In this regard the Quad countries refer to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and affirm their adherence to the international law. The countries in the joint statement strongly opposed the forces which seek to destabilize the peace of Indo-Pacific region and the East and South China sea through any means. Without referring directly to China, the leaders expressed their concern over the growing militarization of the disputes, the manner in which the coastguards and maritime militia vessels are used and on the disruption on the offshore resource exploitation activities by other countries. The peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance to the international law without resorting to coercion was strongly advocated by the leaders. While the international institutions like the United Nations will be supported, any force compromising their integrity will not be tolerated. Underscoring the importance of contemporary realities, the countries reaffirmed their support for the reforms in the United Nations Security Council in both permanent and temporary membership. Terrorism also received some attention towards the end of the joint statement.
Hopes for the future
Quad in the coming years is going to play a quintessential role not only in the Indo-Pacific region but also in the world. Climate change or disaster has become a real threat to humanity. As Quad is a maritime alliance and mostly focuses on the countries bordering the seas and oceans, it has a greater role to play. The steps outlined in the joint statement are an indication of how it will shoulder this responsibility. The cooperation on climate will help in mitigating the climate changes by increasing the efforts on clean energy, climate finance and advanced climate technology.
Another hope emerges from following the international law and upholding the sovereignty of countries. This gives hope to the countries who are facing aggression from the authoritarian countries. While the statement referred to Ukraine, it gave a passing reference to China’s illegal advancement in the South China sea without naming it. This gives a sense of security to the countries having stake in these regions. The reform of the UNSC as highlighted by the joint statement is another hope for the future. Quad has the US as its member and it is also the permanent member of the UNSC. In this regard the Quad support is important for the initiation of reforms in the international institutions particularly the UNSC. Cooperation on terrorism requires likeminded countries to come together. Quad countries have democracy as their founding principle. Therefore, this alliance becomes important to fight the global and cross border terrorism.
Quad is an important alliance of likeminded countries. Their adherence to the international law makes it more important. Issues like climate change, unilateral territorial violations, global and cross border terrorism, maritime peace and security and the reform in the international institutions needs such countries to come together and chalk down the solutions for these issues. While some countries might consider it as an alliance designed to counter the China’s rise, the principles and objectives of Quad are very broad in nature and focus on the fundamental issues faced by humanity.