Context: Indian Prime Minister along with his counterparts from Australia and Japan attended the first in-person summit of Quad leaders hosted by the US President.

  • The first in-person summit of the Quad powers — Australia, Japan, India and the United States — has clearly advanced the work begun by the virtual summit. 
  • It is necessary to critically analyse the summit’s outcome in order to appreciate the development and formalisation of a new grouping and its direction in the coming years.

Key takeaways of the summit

  • Joint statement: The leaders’ emphasized commitment to “a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is also inclusive and resilient”. Promoting security and prosperity in this region is a goal to be achieved through practical cooperation among the four powers.
  • Self image of Quad: The US President portrayed the Quad as a group of democratic partners “who share a worldview and have a common vision for the future”. 
    • The Indian Prime Minister was confident that the Quad would “play the role of a force for global good”.
    • The Australian Prime Minister stressed on the point that the grouping wanted the Indo-Pacific region to “be always free from coercion”. It was an indirect criticism of China’s policy. 
    • The Japanese Prime Minister projected the Quad as “an extremely significant initiative”, designed to promote “a free and open international order based on the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific”.
  • New areas of collaboration: The Washington summit added new areas of collaboration: infrastructure; cybersecurity and space; education and people-to-people relations. 
    • Infrastructure: The plan is to promote “sustainable infrastructure”, with a stress on aligning the Quad with the G7’s Build Back Better World (B3W) Partnership, based on the G20’s quality infrastructure investment principles. 
      • The Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative, will provide a transparent infrastructure partnership to help narrow the $40 trillion.
      • The G7 and its allies will use the B3W initiative to mobilise private-sector capital in areas such as climate, health and health security, digital technology, and gender equity and equality.
      • The Quad can focus on four key B3W elements: digital connectivity, climate, health security and gender equality infrastructure. 
      • The formation of an infrastructure coordination group composed of senior officials was announced. It will map and coordinate infrastructure needs and catalyse private-sector investment.
    • On cybersecurity, the Quad will cooperate on combating cyber threats and securing critical infrastructure. 
    • On the space front, the plan is to identify new collaboration opportunities, especially sharing of data to monitor climate change, disaster response and preparedness, and sustainable uses of ocean and marine resources. 
      • A senior cyber group and a new working group on space will be established. 
    • On education, the Quad fellowship programme will award 25 scholars from each Quad country — opportunities in leading STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programmes in the U.S. 
    • The three working groups on vaccines, climate and emerging technologies established last March, have reported progress. 
    • On vaccines, the Quad stands committed to donate over 1.2 billion doses globally, although only 79 million doses have been delivered so far. 
      • The production of vaccines in India — with the target of “at least 1 billion doses” of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2022 — is on track. 
      • Vaccines are for free distribution in the Indo-Pacific region. Sufficient funding has been assured by Japan and Australia. 
      • Further research and step-up preparedness to handle future pandemics. 
    • Climate change: The Quad working group on climate change has focused on three thematic areas: climate ambition, clean-energy innovation, and climate adaptation and resilience. 
    • The Quad leaders emphasised enhanced action for achieving global net-zero emissions preferably by 2050, with an important clause — “taking into account national circumstances” — added at India’s instance. 
  • A Quad shipping task force has now been launched to build a green-shipping network and green port infrastructure. 
  • Critical and emerging technologies: Developing 5G and beyond 5G networks; supply chains of critical minerals including semiconductors; and emerging advances in biotechnology. 
    • To be successful, building the supply chains will need expert resources and coordination from each country. 
    • A contact group on Advanced Communications and Artificial Intelligence will focus on standards-development and foundational research.

Cooperation among the Quad members in the areas mentioned will help the grouping to address the economic and technological challenges posed by China.

Significance of Quad-ASEAN and Quad-EU relations:

  • Regionally, the Quad sees the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as “the heart of the Indo-Pacific region”. 
    • Together with the small island States in the South Pacific, ASEAN countries gain benefit from growing cooperation within the Quad. 
  • The European Union (EU) Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific was welcomed by the Quad. The EU is also looking to launch the “Global Gateway” as a scheme to compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). 
    • The EU faces challenges like potential risks of emerging technologies, ensuring supply chain resilience, and countering disinformation in the Indo-Pacific region.

Challenges for Quad:

  • Strategic, defence and maritime security: Those will stay outside the formal framework of the Quad for now. 
    • Maritime security will continue to be strengthened through 
    • bilateral 2+2 Ministerial tracks
    • the four-powers Malabar Exercise; and 
    • other bilateral or trilateral arrangements such as AUKUS (the new trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S.). 
    • AUKUS is a trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States for the Indo-Pacific region. Under the pact, the US and the UK will help Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
  • The Quad wants a positive orientation, rather than be seen as an ‘Asian NATO’.
  • On the Afghanistan issue, the decision to “closely coordinate” policies and next steps will be watched as the U.S. comes under strong pressure to show flexibility towards the interim Taliban government. 

The institutionalisation of the Quad has begun to gather speed. For India, this grouping is critical. It is the first major plurilateral organisation in years where India is an equal partner. It has much to contribute and leverage, beyond its market. This is an opportunity for India to work with the advanced economies to “build habits of cooperation”, while confronting the 21st century challenges in its Indo-Pacific neighbourhood.

Sources: Click Here