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Leaders’ summit showed the Quad in good health but more work is needed

Posted By on June 2, 2022 @ 06:00

The 24 May summit of leaders from Japan, the United States, Australia and India geared up the security focus of the Quad.

The four nations significantly expanded their functional cooperation on security affairs, at sea with the Indo-Pacific partnership for maritime domain awareness, in space with a Quad working group and in cybersecurity with the Quad cybersecurity partnership. The summit set the Quad on the right path to collectively countering China’s hegemonic ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.

And despite different priorities in terms of criticising Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, the four leaders made clear their concern that Moscow’s actions might embolden China in the Indo-Pacific. They jointly stated that they strongly opposed any coercive, provocative or unilateral actions that sought to change the status quo and increase tensions in the area ‘such as the militarisation of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard vessels and maritime militia, and efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation activities’.

This joint statement and the closer cooperation it embraces are measures in peacetime intended to deter a potential adversary. If the situation changes, a different approach will be needed.

The increased cooperation on maritime and space awareness will significantly enhance the Quad’s role. As Zack Cooper and Gregory Poling note in War on the Rocks, the agreement on maritime domain awareness smartly addresses regional concerns including illegal fishing and smuggling, as well as illicit activities by China’s maritime militia.

While the improvement in functional cooperation may lead to a better mutual understanding among regional navies, it will not directly lead to a better interoperability without more intense military or constabulary operational exercises.

The Indo-Pacific is now in the grey zone—not in a war, but not at peace. Its nations are trying to secure their national interests in the areas of security, economy, norms and rulemaking by using all means possible without resorting to warfare.

Quad policymakers should consider how to improve their preparedness in a crisis such as if Russia attacks in the Far East or China uses force against Taiwan.

During the leaders’ summit and in other bilateral meetings, US President Joe Biden clearly referred to the possibility of US military intervention if China invades Taiwan. Neither the Quad joint statement nor other leaders’ comments took in Biden’s statement. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida carefully maintained Japan’s position on Taiwan, emphasising the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese insisted that there was no change in Australia’s position. The joint statement foregoes direct criticism of Russia and China, and the phrase ‘the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait’, proposed by Japan, was not included in it.

The Quad is right to refrain from unnecessarily provoking China, something which would be seen by Beijing as confirmation of its view that the group is aimed at containing it.

But this does not mean that the Quad shouldn’t prepare for more intensive scenarios in the Indo-Pacific. The four nations should quietly but steadily start preparations for such a contingency.

The axis of Russia, China and North Korea does not hesitate to challenge the readiness of the Quad and its partners including South Korea. Immediately after the Quad summit, two Chinese H-6 bombers and two Russian Tu-95 bombers flew over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea, passing between Okinawa and Miyako islands before heading towards the Pacific Ocean. Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said this exercise was intended as a provocation against Japan. A day later, North Korea launched missiles, including an ICBM, into the Sea of Japan. Kishi said that threatened the peace, stability and safety of Japan and the international community.

Dhruva Jaishankar and Tanvi Madan say the Quad needs a more robust security agenda. Just an expansion of peacetime cooperation may not be sufficient. Given the urgency of the challenges it faces, the Quad should address harder security cooperation, with consultations among its defence ministries, improved communications and the establishment of joint coastguard patrols and regular military exercises which utilise agreed maritime and space domain awareness cooperation in real operations.

It is also possible for the Quad nations to network arrangements for acquiring and servicing defence equipment, and for reciprocal access to facilities even without formal alliances.

As a next step, the Quad can expand its preventive measures in cooperation with partners in South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific. It can also be institutionalised through the establishment of a secretariat. That would increase the involvement of senior military, diplomatic and economic officials, further improving the solidarity and readiness of the Quad.

It is too early for the Quad to rest on its laurels and it must not wait for a crisis to occur before improving its preparedness. The Quad is continuously being tested and it should adjust to the changing security situation in the Indo-Pacific accordingly.

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[1] geared up: http://www.kantei.go.jp/quad-leaders-meeting-tokyo2022/index_j.html

[2] at sea: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/05/23/fact-sheet-quad-leaders-tokyo-summit-2022/

[3] space: https://www.mofa.go.jp/fp/msp/page22e_000983.html

[4] cybersecurity: https://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/files/100347892.pdf

[5] jointly stated: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/05/24/quad-joint-leaders-statement/

[6] note: https://warontherocks.com/2022/05/the-quad-goes-to-sea/

[7] referred : https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/biden-taiwan-china-invade-military-intervention-rcna30033

[8] maintained: https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20220523/k10013638801000.html

[9] no change: https://www.skynews.com.au/world-news/global-affairs/australias-stance-on-taiwan-remains-unchanged-after-joe-biden-pledged-to-involve-us-military-if-beijing-invades/news-story/dd918b4024487db049e9c4f8093bb7ef

[10] not included: https://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXZQODE244XY0U2A520C2000000/

[11] its view: https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/05/17/india-china-quad-summit-modi-xi-biden/

[12] flew over : https://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXZQOUA24AP40U2A520C2000000/

[13] launched : https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-61560786

[14] say: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2022-05-19/quad-needs-harder-edge

[15] address: https://www.stimson.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Views-Next-Generation-March-2022-031522.pdf#page=54

[16] network : https://www.stimson.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Views-Next-Generation-March-2022-031522.pdf#page=67

[17] secretariat: https://www.stimson.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Views-Next-Generation-March-2022-031522.pdf#page=70