By Keerthana Chavaly
The Indo-Pacific Quadrilateral is a very important factor in international relations, especially in contemporary times of rising nationalism and aggression.
What is the Indo-Pacific Quadrilateral?
The four-nation group of Japan, India, USA, and Australia have quadrilateral ties that will have a significant effect in the Indo-Pacific region, especially in South Asia. The initiative started when the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe saw the need for a strong alliance of “maritime democracies” more than ten years ago. He is seeking to include Britain and France, two formidable European powers, to strengthen the coalition.
Abe sees the need to have a strong coalition within the region in order to counter growing powers like China, who are seeking to assert their independence. By bringing in non-Asian members like USA, UK, and China, the coalition will receive not only monetary support but political support as well due to the far-reaching political influence of these countries.
Debating the strength of the group
The effectiveness and unity of the group are, however, yet to be proved. In May, the third round of dialogues was held in Canberra, Australia with representatives of Japan, India and Australia present. The talks were attended by Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan Shinsuke Sugiyama, and Foreign Affairs Secretary of Australia, Frances Adamson. Experts in international relations hold that the quadrilateral coalition is tentative at best and that the support of USA is not guaranteed. Apart from this, many think that China quite strongly influences the trilateral dialogues between India, Japan, and Australia.
One of the strongest factors behind this is that China has been quite aggressive in its operations in the South China Sea, antagonising India. China claims a majority of the strategic trade route for itself, angering the USA, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei and the Philippines. The USA addressed Chinese concerns of the four allies targeting the country wherein, according to reports, a top official of President Donald Trump’s entourage asserted that the United States’ proposed quadrilateral dialogue with India, Japan, and Australia is ‘certainly’ not about containing China.
Australia, on the other hand, cannot afford to alienate China, a rapidly growing economy, since it provides one of the largest markets for Australian trading. Business Standard reports, “A strong diplomatic demarche from Beijing about the deepening Australia-India-Japan-US military ties had altered the alliance popularly known as the ‘Quad’”.
Did China admit to any influence?
China has expressed its opinion on the Quadrilateral, stating in a response to a question from the Press Trust of India (PTI), “China hopes the collaboration among relevant countries could comply with the trend of times, which refers to peace, development, and cooperation and shared benefits, and also conform to the prospects of the regions and nations for common security and development.” The written answer also said, “We hope it would be beneficial for improving the mutual trust among countries and regions, at the same time safeguarding and promoting peace, tranquillity, and prosperity within the area, without targeting or damaging a third party’s interest.“
The future of the Indo-Pacific quadrilateral thus remains tentative. While many seem to think that the group will soon fall out due to rising mistrust between the nations, others opine that the coalition will expand to include European powers as well.
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