The Quad leaders’ summit in March of this year was widely covered as a coming out party for a previously rather obscure 4-nation group of China rivals — Japan, Australia, India, and of course, the United States. Though the Quad had been meeting regularly at more junior levels since 2017 (after its original short-lived founding in 2007), the leaders’ summit resulted in the first joint statement, giving the impression that the four nations were closely aligned.
The Quad is not a formal organization — it has no secretariat, no charter, not even a website. Most of the Quad’s three year life so far has been taken up with meeting and issuing statements. Until the leaders’ summit, these were issued separately by each member. No wonder some have dubbed the grouping a talk shop.
However, what the four nations have been doing outside of the official Quad format is more than talking. President Joe Biden has focused on defining China as the greatest geopolitical threat to the United States, promising “extreme competition” with Beijing. Thus, the last few years have been heavily focused on ramping up interoperability between the four nations’ militaries through “foundational agreements” enabling the use of each other’s bases for refueling and other purposes and placing US-sourced communications and geospatial equipment in US-origin aircraft and naval ships.
In practice this has been mostly about India, as I explained in a recent brief from the Quincy Institute of Responsible Statecraft. New Delhi is the only Quad member outside formal US alliance structures. Closing the gap between India and other US allies has long been a top Washington priority. India too has recently come to blows with China on their contested border. And now, the Quad nations effectively have their own military exercise, the Malabar. Thus, even as Quad leaders stressed non-military cooperation in their summit, facts on the ground look increasingly like the formation of a military bloc — which could be a destabilizing development in Asia.
Read the full article in Inkstick Media.