The first virtual summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), an informal four-nation alliance comprising India, the United States, Australia and Japan, has sent across a nuanced yet firm message to China that its bullying tactics and territorial muscle-flexing will attract a collective pushback. The meeting, the first since Joe Biden took office, set the tone for enhancing multilateral cooperation between the like-minded democratic countries with shared interests and concerns. At a time when Beijing has been unabashedly unleashing hegemonic instincts in the region, the Quad grouping serves as a critical forum not just for cooperation among the four democracies but also for ensuring an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. It should not be seen merely as an anti-China alliance but as a multilateral forum working on a wide range of areas of cooperation to ensure regional peace and compliance to the rules-based systems. Quad is gradually growing in stature as a countervailing force and the deliberations at the latest summit further reinforce the importance of the alliance. The increasing importance of India’s role in the alliance was illustrated by the launch of a new initiative under which India would produce up to 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by 2022, financed by the US and Japan, for last-mile distribution by Australia in the Southeast Asian nations of the Indo-Pacific. The grouping of the democratic nations took birth in the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami and since then the world has faced multiple challenges such as climate change.
The Quad leaders unveiled a shared vision to keep the Indo-Pacific region free, open, resilient and inclusive, seen as an indirect warning to China which has been flexing its muscles in the region. The idea is to draw clear red lines for Beijing and insulate other countries from becoming dependent on China’s economic and technological patronage. Consistent international pressure alone will force China to adhere to a rules-based international order, transparency and freedom of navigation in the international seas. The members of the Quad feel threatened by China’s growing militarisation in the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean Rim regions. The issue of free navigation is central to the agenda of the Quad. China has not been sincere in following the arbitration of international organisations, nor is it accommodative of the interests of other smaller countries in the region. The Biden administration has already begun a process to put together a set of coalitions aimed at countering China’s dominance in key technologies like semiconductors, artificial intelligence and surveillance technology. India stands to benefit from such alliances in terms of accessing cutting-edge technologies and boosting domestic R&D. With telecom forming the backbone of a modern, digital economy, this sector must be shielded from predatory Chinese activities.
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