The Quad countries are preparing for an autumn summit in Washington, which will provide an opportunity to discuss multilateral cooperation in various sectors. Four dimensions which merit closer attention and are crucial to the group's future are the Indo-Pacific strategies of European countries and the EU, partnerships with ASEAN and its members, closer India-U.S. ties and maritime security issues in the Pacific.
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The EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy comes better late than never. But it has to step gingerly. It cannot antagonize China, wants to build on the legacy of its members’ colonial past, give the region the infrastructure it needs, and make the trade agreements that it wants. Is it achievable?
The Task Force led by Gateway House will study economic and technological cooperation between the four like-minded democracies in the Indo-Pacific.
The first-ever Quad Leaders' Summit on March 12, 2021 was a defining moment in Asian geopolitics, with the promise of a strong political commitment in the future. A joint op-ed by the Quad leaders stated a number of priorities for the grouping, ranging from security in the Indo-Pacific to climate change to vaccine partnerships. This is a crucial partnership for India, as this grouping of democracies will reinforce Indian diplomatic initiatives, launching the country into global relevance.
In its recent itineration, the Quad (or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) has been toiling since 2017, through deliberations among mid-level and senior officials, to develop a common vision for the challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region, challenges caused by China's menacing rise and aggressive behaviour.
The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) presents a unique opportunity to develop a Blue Economy, with security, sustainability and business profitability as its three pillars. An IOR Defence Ministers' Conclave held on 4 February provided a platform to discuss regional cooperation, linking development with defence, and emphasized India's pivotal position within the IOR.
The recently-enacted China Coast Guard laws have renewed uncertainty in the South China Sea. India must work with the Quad to build collective maritime competence of maritime law enforcement agencies beyond the Indian Ocean Region within the Indo-Pacific.
The U.S. Navy Secretary, Kenneth Braithwaite, visited India on 17 Dec 2020. Will this year-end visit culminate in the reactivation of the First Fleet under the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command? The First Fleet, is likely to be an expeditionary fleet - one without a shore-based headquarters and assigned primary responsibility for the Indian Ocean and parts of Pacific Ocean bordering South Asia. Its reactivation will emphasise the strategic importance of this region. It will also relieve the burden of the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet headquartered in Japan, that is deployed for operations in this vast oceanic space.
Australia's much-awaited inclusion at the Malabar Exercise-2020 reflects a hard reset in India's foreign policy that was traditionally accommodative to Chinese concerns on the militarisation of the Quad. In the backdrop of the on-going stand-off with China at the Ladakh border, the Indian Navy has maintained a high operational tempo and deployed the highest numbers of frontline assets during this edition of the Malabar Exercise. India must build on this strategic vision and work towards including France at the next edition of Malabar in 2021.
Taiwan’s increasing threat of takeover from China by possible amphibious assault reveals the urgent need for the island to strengthen its defences. The commencement of the construction phase of the Indigenous Defence Submarine programme, is a crucial step in Taiwan’s quest to build a credible deterrence to counter sustained Chinese diplomatic and economic intimidation and technology denial.