The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD, also known as the Quad) is an informal strategic forum between the United States, Japan, Australia and India with a shared objective to ensure and support a “free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region.

Amid the growing global concern over China’s expansionist behaviour, India, the US, Japan, and Australia on Tuesday agreed to step up coordination in ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Historical Background of the Quad

Although the members of the Quad are now seen as sharing values and, more recently, strategic outlooks, the four countries had rarely been considered one group of nations both during and after the Cold War. In fact, the “Quad” with a large Q previously meant the group of advanced economies, namely Canada, the European Union, Japan and the United States in the context of trade liberalization under the GATT/WTO.

Also, until the United States joined the EAS in 2011, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) that includes 27 countries was the only regional cooperation framework in which the current Quad countries shared membership.


The grouping of four democracies –India, Australia, US and Japan– known as the quadrilateral security dialogue or quad, was first mooted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007.

With the aim to counter China’s aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region, India, Australia, US and Japan, formed the “quadrilateral” coalition on November 12, 2017, and held a meeting a day before the ASEAN Summit.

Officials from India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and United State’s Department of State met in Manila for consultations on issues of common interest in the Indo-Pacific region.The dialogue was paralleled by joint military exercises of an unprecedented scale, titled Exercise Malabar.

Soon after the meeting, India, Australia and Japan issued separate statements listing the Indo-Pacific as the major area of the deliberations and resolved to expand cooperation to uphold a rules-based order and respect for international law in the strategically important region.

Relevance of QUAD:

1.After spending four years to deepen strategic relations with the United States, Australia, India and importantly Southeast Asian states  since 2013, Abe introduced the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) concept in 2016 as an overarching foreign policy framework for the protection of the rules-based order.

In this sense, whereas the Quad in 2007 was viewed as just countering China without a clear vision, the Quad in 2017 could be considered a collective effort of regional order-building, especially in terms of maritime security and regional connectivity, with better legitimacy.

2.India became a more active security partner of the United States and its allies. India has purchased more than $7 billion in U.S. defense equipment since 2007, with plans to spend upwards of $150 billion till around 2020.

Also legal frameworks for defense cooperation have been settled. After the renewal of the new framework for India-U.S. cooperation in 2015, Delhi and Washington signed a Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), which “will facilitate access to advanced defense systems and enable India to optimally utilize its existing U.S.-origin platforms.

3.Japan and India also agreed on an information security arrangement and defense equipment transfer agreement, respectively. Tokyo and Delhi agreed on the launch of the negotiations for the ACSA in a 2018 vision statement.

At the operational level, India accepted Japan’s participation in the India-U.S. Malabar Exercises occasionally since 2007 (2007, 2009, 2011, 2014), and regularly since 2016.

Australia and India also launched the AUSINDEX, a bilateral maritime exercise.

4.Japan and Australia set up multiple agreements related to security cooperation as articulated in a joint statement.These agreements have  come into force and momentum for bilateral defense cooperation has continued.

“Free and Open Indo-pacific”:

Japan’s FOIP aims at maintaining and enhancing a free, open, inclusive, and rules-based order in the Indo- Pacific region, wherein all sovereign states, regardless of size or political system:

(1) must comply with agreed-upon rules, such as international law, and be equal under the law;

(2) shall have freedom to seek economic prosperity based on free trade and market economy;

(3) are expected to contribute to global public goods, especially open sea lines of communication and airways.

Way Forward:

In August 2007, in a speech before the Indian Parliament, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tried to draw a strategic link between the Indian and the Pacific oceans and spoke of the “confluence of the two seas”. This was envisioned as the Japanese Indo-Pacific strategy. Abe had then posited that “Japan and India had a shared responsibility, as maritime nations located at the opposite edges of the two seas.

1.There have been discussions in policy-making circles that given the centrality of Southeast Asia in the Indo- Pacific geography, the Quad should be expanded to a ‘Quad-plus’ mechanism by including the ASEAN countries in its fold. Southeast Asia, overall, has been gaining more attention in recent years owing to China’s conduct in the South China Sea (SCS); this region also forms the main arc in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

2.For India as well, the Quad is seen as a platform for the promotion of its ‘Act East’ policy which is the cornerstone of India’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.

3.For India, the military clash in the Galwan Valley in the Himalayan territory of Ladakh, on 15 June 2020, has only amplified this anti-China view and given it a nationalist trend

India has started looking into other sustainable non-Chinese alliance frameworks, including the Blue Dot Network (BDN), a multilateral Indo-Pacific initiative comprising the United States (US), Japan, and Australia. Aimed at improving standards of infrastructure investment and hailed as a counter initiative to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the BDN could mark the beginning of a new “economic alliance” for India in the Indo-Pacific.


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