In 1890, Alfred Mahan affirmed, that “whoever controls the Indian Ocean will dominate Asia, the destiny of the world will be decided on its waters” .In 1968, after United Kingdom withdrawal from Indian Ocean region the United States (US) presumed the responsibility of sustaining the order in the Indian Ocean. In earlier era, its overwhelming power-projection capacity, the US endorsed the moderate policy thwarting by outer hegemony and the rise of other intimidations to the Indian Ocean region. Indian Ocean appears as the essential battlefield of struggle in global political views. Strategic position of the Indian Ocean region in terms authority and significance of its Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs) makes it important for the littoral and external hegemons. The geostrategic competition among major power like the US, China and India, in the contemporary era this region has determined its regional states to boost their military forces in the Indian Ocean.
Formerly, the Indian Ocean considered as a deserted ocean and today it has turn out to be a center of political and intentional activities. Moreover, The US has established its military naval base Diego Garcia on the isolated land mass of Chagos archipelago in the Indian Ocean region due to its interests in this region.Due to strategic importance of Indian Ocean and the competition among major regional powers the US always supports India, to counter Chinese hegemony in this region.
Keeping in view Indian geo-strategic position, the US developed strategic partnership with India to contain China. The Indo- US partnership presumes to efficaciously hedge against Chinese designs in the Indian Ocean. The present study aims to discuss the US security strategy for the Indian Ocean and its implications for China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The Indo-US partnership in Indian Ocean has unsurprisingly made cautious Pakistan and China regarding the strategic stability in this region. Pakistan is conscious of its instant and extensive neighborhood in the Indian Ocean. Pakistan has to appraise its alternatives and ready to handle any challenge that Indian Ocean can tender in the future. China has already exceeded the America as the largest energy consumer and now it has turned into more reliant on overseas oil and gas.
This era is most dynamic and emerging era with all respects. It brought lot of changes in international map and as well as in technology and all walks of life. This era is marked as Global era and globalization is its key importance. The 20th century was dominated by most of mega events of history which redefined the shapes of mankind on surface of world. Events like World War I and World War II, Nuclear power exploration and its control, chauvinism and decolonization, establishment of UN, massive improvements in science and technology, awareness of environmental degradation, digital revolution, and massive advancement in information technology shaped life in new patterns. This also affected the Indian Ocean with multiple ways like politics, technology, emerging of powers, trade, communication and navigation and changing boundaries of territories.
With increase in trade and discovery of fusel fuels, industrial revolution exaggerated. Oil, Gas and other petroleum products became strategic commodities. This also caused to ship petroleum from its origins to Europe and other industrial countries. The world has been affected tremendously by petroleum and its byproducts particularly in 20th century. These petroleum products have become central to our lives. Crude oil found in inside earth and in rocks is processed to form different petroleum products. From lighting and cooking inside homes to running of gigantic machinery of heavy industrial complexes all are mostly based on petroleum. The Indian Ocean region is very important in this regard as five of world’s largest oil producers are located in this region. Out of world total trade of oil and petroleum 40% petroleum products are traded from Indian Ocean and its shipping lanes are backbones of most of international economies.
The strait of Bab al Mandab known as “Gate of Lamentation” is a narrow strait only twenty miles wide that allows ships to pass from the Red Sea to Gulf of Aden and to Arabian Sea. This strait is divided into Eastern Channel, Alexander’s Strait’ two miles wide and western channel “Dact al Mayun’ 16 miles wide by an island “Perim” in the center of Bab al Mandab. The oil came from Middle East must have to pass through this strait to their way to Suez Canal and it save extra time and money of ships that carry oil from Middle East to Europe and America. Thus Bab al Mandab became very strategic connection among Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea and similar for rest of the world. Further this era comprises on the emergence of regional and extra regional power in Indian Ocean region such as US, China, India and Pakistan. China is meticulously emerging and constructing up its naval occurrence in Indian Ocean, which is being sighted as rising threats for the wellbeing of India and US as well.
The US armada was initially founded as the Continental Navy times ago, in 1775 during the American innovative war. Initially the US fleet was operated in Pacific and Atlantic but later due to the trade awareness and Indian Ocean’s growing importance tilted the United States towards it. In the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, the Indian Ocean considered as a British lake, the British not only acquired India but also got control the various choke points of Indian Ocean to protected the trade routes of their favor. At that time the American presence in this part of world was minimal.
American concern in the Indian Ocean region rose extensively during and after the II World War. Ultimately, the US happen to be the main sponsor of protection on the high seas in the Indian Ocean region, on the other hand, after the British draw down from east of Suez canal in 1970s. Additionally, for the future of this region the American President “Franklin Delano Roosevelt” congested in the Suez Canal while he returns from the Yalta Conference in 1940s. So in particular he met the founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz ibn Saud on a ship voyage. The king had brought a number of sheep on slat, butchered and roasted for the American bunch.At the same time, the protection of oil assurances was converse by the pertinent parties.
Nowadays, it is stiff to envisage the Indian Ocean region, particularly the Arabian Sea region without the US maritime attendance, but the US occurrence in the Indian Ocean is not as mature or as profound, as it has presence in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The US naval presence in the Indian Ocean is consequently reliant on the benevolence of its associates. However, there is no distrust this goodwill would continue in near future. The Indian Ocean and the land of its surroundings have been developed its significance and it is expected to become imperative to the US navy.
Economic concerns always played most important task in the formulation of US overseas strategies and foretelling its supremacy in abroad. US economic concerns in the Indian Ocean region are the main cause of the main possessions like oil, decisive supplies and raw materials and the sea lanes of communication are worth mentioning. Though, for the US the Indian Ocean has turned out to be a vital tip of foreign its and financial strategies and it has grown impact on its defense. Thus, for the economic survival of US allies of US the unhindered shipping of raw materials, oil and other products through the Sea Lanes of Communication was mandatory. According to the President Nixon report on foreign policy to congress in May 1973, the US and other industrial nation’s demands of energy are rising in world so in this case the need of Persian Gulf oil would increase in the near future. Consequently, the assertion of the ongoing flow of Middle East energy resources are increasing its importance for the US, Western Europe and Japan. In today’s world the significance of constant supply of oil and other Mineral Resources to the US and its allies have happened as the milestone for the American foreign and defense policies. In the post Second World War the main concerns of US were to deter the expansion of communism in Europe and other parts of the World. In post II World War Era Indian Ocean region lost its strategic significance due to the rising tensions between superpowers, in Europe. Moreover, France and England had colonies in Indian Ocean’s littoral States, the Britain thus, provided a sagacity of safety to the US interests in Indian Ocean.
The US war with Korea in 1950s had deep effects on the US economic concerns, which was extended to comprise a great part of the Asia. Therefore, the alliances were established with the littoral countries of Indian Ocean I-e India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Further, US entreated the South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) the aim of this treaty was to check the South–West extension of China, which was measured to be a Soviet ally. Washington also created another accord among Australia, New Zealand, and the United States (ANZUS) for the assure protection of European nations. Likewise, US encouraged the configuration of Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) in 1979, to take initiative as an observer. In all these provisions, US sought and protected major participation of Great Britain, and it kept its presence in the area which limited to flag -showing profile at Bahrain based Mideast force. The Suez crises in 1956 and the Colonial rule in Subcontinent brought home the fact that the British cannot continue its presence in the region for an indefinite period, nevertheless later on the announcement of British withdrawal came as a surprise for the whole world. The inspiring Soviet entry into the region in the wake of the British decision to withdraw from the area was seen as a part of intended Russian move to fill the vacuum created by the withdrawal of British. These historic events led US to believe that in an area as important as the India Ocean, it is dangerous to let the Soviet Union attain a potential that would be significantly greater than its own .
The Nixon doctrine, “for the security concerns the arrangements were modified to make available a more secure US role in Indian Ocean Region, the burdens and responsibilities were shared within the allies for their own protection and security and for more bitterly sharing of materials and manpower”. This doctrine highlighted that, in some cases and area US would be militarily involved, and in some cases the involvement would be much lesser. The US key objective was to maintain a balance role in Indian Ocean Region that would continue to represent US interests in the area. It also encouraged littoral states to contribute for their own security issues, further the US would help to provide the Naval and Air presence as a possible prevention and the allies would help to supply their own ground troops.
The naval units of the US which were desired by maintained a viable presence due to its elasticity and comparative autonomy in the global waters. For the preservation of necessary deterrence, it was essential that they can approach to any part of the Indian Ocean in the undeviating time. In the perspective of the Nixon doctrines, the “Island strategy” naval base Diego Garcia considered a vital to US naval wellbeing in Indian Ocean. In gulf war era, the US persists to set up the coalitions in Indian Ocean region for security concerns.
On the other hand, the post 9/11 era has marked a rising involvement of the US Administration in this Region. In the light of 9/11 attack on US, President Bush highlighted two superseding security concerns in his speech, Bush provided policy guidelines for the US involvement in the Indian Ocean. According to Bush two major features of the US involvement includes first, to countering china and second, securing oil trade routes. The most significant key factor for extensive involvement of the US can be measured as that the US said that the war in Afghanistan is a war for justice. But the War in Gulf, it is the underlying motivation for the US involvement. George W. Bush said that the Taliban defeat is the most repressive regime in the history of the world. According to a journalist, in the past, it was the US who expectant the Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to help the Taliban regime. So when the Taliban took the power, the US considered nothing obnoxious in the Taliban’s rule and campaign to compel the stringent Islamic laws.
The premeditated concerns of Washington in the Indian Ocean can be measured by a comprehensive foreign policy stance. Further, that viewpoint is prejudiced by the essential regional interests and also comprised on state’s explicit purposes. On the other hand the Washington’s key objective is to curtail and eliminate those threats which are alarming for the US interests in this region.
Due to the vital strategic location, rich resources, important trade ways, the just beginning Sino-US and Sino-Indian contentions, programmed of uncertain purpose, and Islamist extremists. Because of these scenarios the Indian Ocean region seems successful to get the consideration of the US representatives and strategists.
The United States foreign policy, specifically regarding the Indian Ocean and, particularly related to China, India and Pakistan, it can be recapitulating in a hierarchical way to describe the core objectives of the US policy. So in this regard there are two notable points to explain. First of all, in the US as like other States, the national and global concerns are extremely linked up with external strategy statements. Secondly, the US contemporary economic conditions would have consequences for the foreign and defense policies.
There are diverse strategic schools of thoughts I-e the renowned American strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan, Lord Horatio Nelson, J.C Wylie and John talkie when that derives to ponder about the prominence of the strategic purposes of the US in this region.
One School of thought argues that Indian Ocean region will turn out to be more imperative for the US, due to its ongoing dependency on oil imports from the Middle East. Further, the US allied need is to preserve the strategic supremacy to counter Chinese activity in this region, it also wants to curtail the influence of Iran. In the case of a competition with China, the Indian Ocean would have a great implication in trade, mainly related to the supply lines.
There is another school of thought which suggests a fascinating amalgamation of the above school of thought. It is about that this Indian Ocean region will always have been attractive for the policymakers of United States. Despite the fact, the focus of United States is growing day by day in this region. .
To put aside the above considerations, it comes into view that there would be an intensive practice of multifaceted measures by the US to look closely the issues of this region with its particular partners. This is also source to increase the awareness about all the issue on local level, which is not in the favor of The US interests. Likewise, for the sake of sustainability the US can confront with other powers for the security of its interests. Furthermore, the Washington’s nature of assets and capabilities are likely to change in Indo-Pacific region. US also may get force to step back from its presence in Indian Ocean Region after the fulfillment of its interests, and then it will definitely consider the other partners of this region like India, Indonesia, and Australia to pursue its interests.
There are different key factors of ongoing rapid transformation in Indian Ocean Region. China is emerging as the second leading economy globally and its transnational mammoth project and Silk Road Economic Belt project with Pakistan and other Asian States. Secondly the US counter strategy towards china’s rise and pivot strategy to Asia, furthermore, the US also concerned to ascent several emerging economies of the littoral states in this region like India, Indonesia, Pakistan and others. In near future, it seems there will be rise of intensive economic activities within and through the Indian Ocean and there would be high possibility of militarization among littoral and external powers. In this context the CPEC presumes a vital importance in this region. India have fear that, this mega venture by China and Pakistan can encircle the India’s boundaries of both land and maritime. Further that the Indian Ocean is desirable for India to endure its limited naval front both economically and militarily. Moreover, with the influence of US, the other key regional countries such as India, China, United Kingdom, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, France, South and the United Kingdom will play a vital part in the Indian Ocean region on different levels. There are some major features of United States objectives in the Indian Ocean are seeing moderately clear. Similarly the United States conceives the alarming threats to its interests in Indian Ocean Region from the regional countries like China and Iran.
The following analysis briefly explains the aspects of US involvement on Indian Ocean Regional key countries.
China’s naval projection can be traced back to the heyday of Qing dynasty; the China’s naval legacy was not prolonged far beyond the Cape of Good Hope. As long as Chinese objects in Indian Ocean, China has already obtained the shore operational capabilities. China seeks to build blue water navy to maintain its presence and fulfillment of its long term objectives in Indian Ocean Region. Concurrently, China is also eagerly increasing its participation in multilateral institutions like wise, its participation in the UN peacekeeping missions, international disaster relief campaigns such as counter-terrorism and counter-piracy mission..
The regional neighbors of China view the naval projection as a fearsome offensive force in Indian Ocean. That’s the reason the US and its regional allies consider the naval modernization of China in Indo-Pacific as a potential threat to its interests. Likewise the dominant naval position of China is becoming the cause of clash of interests between the two major states China and the US.
The US considers China as a potential source of instability in Indo-Pacific region so in 2010 one of the US official warned China to cultivate its activities in this region. The US Pivot to Asia strategy with its allies to encircle China along the eastern and southern island chain periphery. Further for the containment of China, the US also built strategic rings and also expands its defense treaties with its South Asian regional allies to encircle China in this region. China on the other hand considers the US as a major threat to the security. Beijing is also making substantial efforts to counter the US in the Indian Ocean, for example in 2013, Beijing warned the US not to interfere in the region. Secondly, China imposed no-fly zone in the South China Sea area.
Likewise, the emergence of China as booming economy and also dominant superpower in Asia-Pacific regard as a major player in this region. The aggressive and strong emergence of China has changed the geopolitics of Asian region, as long as it also affects the international order. Now China has become the most significant partner of Asian countries due to its economic rise. The rapid rise of china also poses the major threats to its neighbors and other countries such as for the US. The general views of engagement of China’s in this region considered by many countries as a threat to its interests.
China is ever more signifying its assertiveness in various strategies to make best use of its interests in this region. The assertion of Chinese president Xi Jinping of China’s aims to start a “New 21st Century Maritime Silk Road,” another part of the “One Belt One Road” inventiveness which is related to the newest proposal of grander economic collaboration among the States. China invested with the assurance of US$40 billion in this mega venture, China intends to expand the structure along with the sea routes and road routes, through these exertions china wants to amalgamate its ongoing ventures. This offer not only unwraps better opportunities for China, but it will also contribute to enlarge its domain of encouragement.
United States Donates $9 million in Weapons, Equipment to Support Somalia National Army
Official reports here said the United States through its diplomatic office in Mogadishu has presented $9 million in weapons, vehicles, medical supplies and other equipment to the Somali National Army (SNA). The ceremony was attended by Minister of Defense Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur Jama and U.S. Ambassador Larry André.
Aside from heavy weapons, equipment included support and construction vehicles, explosive ordinance disposal kits, medical supplies, and maintenance equipment for vehicles and weapons. Most of the supplies are already on their way to Hishabelle and Galmudug States to support SNA troops.
“We cheer the success achieved by Somali security forces in their historic fight to liberate Somali communities suffering under al-Shabaab,” said Ambassador André. “This is a Somali-led and Somali-fought campaign. The United States reaffirms commitment to support country’s efforts.”
Minister of Defense Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur Jama thanked the United States, saying, “Allow me to convey the appreciation of the Federal Government of Somalia to the Government of the United States of America for the continued support to Somalia’s peacebuilding process and the support for the fight against terrorism. This support comes at a critical time for our forces as we boost their capabilities to combat al-Shabaab.”
The Minister was joined by Chief of Defense Forces Brigadier General Odowaa Yusuf Rageh for the ceremony.
The weapons, including light and heavy machine guns were purchased with U.S. Department of Defense funding. They are marked and registered pursuant to the Federal Government of Somalia’s Weapons and Ammunition Management policy, designed to account for and control weapons within the Somali security forces and weapons captured on the battlefield.
Notification to the UN Security Council is conducted by the Federal Government of Somalia in close coordination with the Office of Security Cooperation of U.S. Embassy Mogadishu in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions.
The weapons will support SNA-Danab battalions, including battalions currently participating in operations in Hirshabelle and Galmudug. The weapons will provide a significant increase in the lethality and mobility of the SNA-Danab units participating in these operations. Somalia and its neighbouring States have come under frequent heightened militant attacks in the Horn of Africa.
From Strategic depth to Strategic Threat
On 30th December, in broad daylight, the hub of Peshawar and administrative center was targeted by the militants with the explosion of a deadly bomb, leaving behind 59 dead. the attack was claimed by the TTP Mohmand faction, whose leadership is allegedly residing in Afghanistan.
The issue of Afghanistan has occupied a consequential part of the strategic culture of Pakistan. Following the partition, with the specter of Pashtun Nationalism looming large on the horizon, policymakers in Pakistan opted for a policy of Islamic Nationalism, which became a cornerstone of strategic thinking during the era of General Zia-ul-Haq in the wake of the Afghan Jihad War in 1979.
Islamic nationalism was seen as only the means through which Pashtun Nationalism could be confronted and subdued.
With the adoption of this policy, swiftly and generously, aid from US, UAE and KSA began to inundate the territory of Pakistan, carrying each their national interests with it.
Within a short period, thousands of new madrassas were established, cultivating youngsters by inculcating the concept of Jihadism.
This formation of an alliance with the US in the Afghan Jihad war was driven by two factors; first, to subdue the dominant Pashtun Nationalism with Islamic Nationalism, and second, to establish an Islamabad-friendly regime in Afghanistan so that any terrorist group could not use Afghan territory while keeping New Delhi at bay, by not letting her establish any foothills in Afghanistan.
Fast forward to 2023, the facts on the group are now telling a different story. Islamabad’s once “strategic depth” is now becoming a distant dream as Pakistan is now confronted by insurmountable problems from all sides
According to the data collected by the Pak Institute of Peace Studies, Islamabad, in the past two years, Pakistan has encountered 100 terrorist attacks, and yet, the recent surge of terrorist activities shows no signs of cooling down in the formidable future. This is clearly evident from the news coming from the casualties on the daily basis of the security forces of Pakistan, mostly on the border areas, and the havoc it caused to the infrastructure. Officially, it is estimated that in the last six months, around 350 military personnel have lost their lives, while the outlawed group has claimed even more than that. These occurrences elucidate the failure of the Pakistani state to effectively persuade the Taliban regime not to let the Afghan territory be used against Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty.
Now, who is to be blamed, if not our flawed policies, and the masters of shortsightedness. Lately, upon leaving his office, the ex-COAS scapegoated Imran Khan who initiated the dialogue with the outlawed group, TTP. While Imran Khan, on the other hand, said that the army was on board when the negotiation decision with the TTP was taken. These inconspicuous but powerful statements clearly reveal the uncertainty of our policymakers while dealing with a sensitive topic. Besides that, it also shows how the wizards of policy making and governance are not on the same page while dealing with the Afghanistan issue.
Recently, a document was released by the National Counter Terrorism Authority and presented to the senate committee where discoveries pertaining to the ceasefire between the government of Pakistan and TTP were made. According to the report, the truce initiated by the PTI-led government last year had utterly emboldened the TTP.
With careful planning and shrewd utilization of resources, they were able to revive themselves both logistically and materially. Once the truce between the two parties was over, yet again, a surge in violent attacks was documented.
Beside the challenge of TTP, the Afghan Taliban shows no signs of a positive stance for the Durand line issue. In an interview, the information minister, Zabiullah Mujahid, said, “The issue of the Durand line is still an unresolved one, while the construction of fencing itself creates rifts between a nation spread across both sides of the border. It amounts to dividing a nation”.
Another prominent concern is the time to time border shelling. On Dec 11, 2022, the Taliban forces heavily shelled a town on the outstrips of the Pakistani border leaving behind seven civilian casualties. A few days later, on Dec 15, another exchange of fire took place, claiming one more life. Although, not much heed has been given to such reports, it seems the genie is out of the bottle now.
Last but not least, the Taliban had even scapegoated Pakistan through which the US drone was flown that killed the top Al Qaeda leader, Ayman Al Zawahiri.
The cherry on top happens to be the readiness of the new system to exhibit the disposition of candour in their interactions with India. The Taliban defense minister, Mullah Yahoob, has expressed his desire for the training of Afghan troops by Pakistan’s arch-rival India. If this goes according to the plan, the dependent policy of Afghanistan on Pakistan will diminish and create new challenges for Pakistan. India, by using Afghan soil, can embolden and logistically support the liberation movements in Balochistan and Sindh, thus exacerbating the already precarious situation.
It’s high time to call a spade a spade!
Our Policymakers must accept that the old strategic depth policy inside Afghanistan has begun to fail. Taliban 2.0 are entirely in contrast to its 1.0 version in terms of statecraft. They are more pluralistic in their policies, and economically, they are far more independent compared to the 90s. This time, they want to cut deals directly with the regional states. It may appear unilateral, but rather it’s a mutually desired engagement as other states have expressed interests in establishing relations with Afghanistan while considering them a new and inevitable reality.
Meanwhile, China is feathering its own nest, and is more concerned about the East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). She does not want Afghanistan to be used as a pawn by an insurgent group in the great game against China.
Considering these dynamic global realities, Pakistan must abrogate its old policy towards Afghanistan and focus on a unanimous policy towards Afghanistan. For the success of a cohesive and effective anti-terrorism strategy it is contingent for policymakers to align their viewpoints against the new resurgent groups. And last but not the least , a collective action by the military, politicians and society is necessary.
Deciphering Quad’s expanding agenda in the Indo-Pacific
Here, I try to throw light on Quad’s expanding regional agenda and where it is headed to.
The third in-person Quad summit took place in Japan’s Hiroshima, the rendezvous of this year’s G7 summit. Following each annual summit, regional observers eagerly look forward to big announcements from the four-nation grouping, via its joint statements. The Hiroshima statement mentions, “Harnessing our collective strengths and resources, we are supporting the region’s development, stability, and prosperity through the Quad’s positive, practical agenda. Our work is guided by regional countries’ priorities and responds to the region’s needs.”
Every Quad summit since 2021 had seen new initiatives or collaborative ventures being announced that are further carried ahead in the subsequent years. At the same time, Quad has also supported the leadership role of regional institutions of the broader Indo-Pacific region such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). The grouping also welcomed the Indo-Pacific vision statements of these organisations and also of extra-regional countries and organisations like the European Union (EU).
An oft-repeated sentence in all Quad joint statements is “the promotion of free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific with respect for a rules-based order and international law”, which hints that the grouping has a “balancing character” against coercive behaviour by any regional power. However, the tangible areas of cooperation of the grouping had kept hard security at bay, until recently.
Even though the Quad is not a collective security alliance, the meeting of military chiefs of the four Quad nations in California, United States, earlier this month, in a clear indication of enhanced security cooperation with apparently China in mind. Moreover, they have participated in the Malabar naval exercise four times – in 2007, 2020, 2021 and 2022. Later this year, Australia will host the 2023 edition of Malabar naval exercise. Meanwhile, Quad’s Maritime Security Working Group held its first meeting in Washington earlier this year.
The Hiroshima joint statement further goes on to mention, “We seek a region where no country dominates and no country is dominated – one where all countries are free from coercion, and can exercise their agency to determine their futures. Our four countries are united by this shared vision.” However, this vision has its limitations as long as Quad exists short of an alliance. At the same time, the grouping has charted for itself a wide-ranging area of mutual cooperation.
A new ‘Quad Partnership for Cable Connectivity and Resilience’ was launched in Hiroshima, recognising the urgent need to support quality undersea cable networks in the Indo-Pacific. The leaders, via the joint statement, also announced a ‘Clean Energy Supply Chains’ initiative and its allied set of principles for accelerating the region’s clean energy transition along with a fellowship scheme to boost infrastructure expertise across the region.
The Quad has agreed on a set of principles to augment cybersecurity in the Indo-Pacific along with a new Space Working Group to explore avenues to deliver Earth Observation data and other space-related applications to assist nations across the region to strengthen climate early warning systems and better manage the impacts of extreme weather events. The existing Vaccine Partnership has been elevated to a broader Health Security Partnership.
In a first in the Pacific, the Quad has agreed to join hands with the island nation of Palau to establish Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN), with the aim of expanding and modernising telecommunications networks in the crucial subregion. A private sector-led Quad Investors Network (QUIN) is also launched to facilitate investments in strategic technologies such as clean energy, semiconductors, critical minerals, and quantum computing.
The first Quad summit
Two years ago, the White House became the venue for the first in-person Quad leaders’ summit. In fact, there was one more summit-level meeting that year, in March, but in virtual mode. The joint statement following the March 2021 virtual summit was titled “Spirit of the Quad”. It saw the initiation of three key working groups – on vaccine distribution, on climate change, and on critical & emerging technologies – the earliest areas of cooperation since the grouping was elevated to the apex level.
Other than the initiation of the aforementioned working groups, the leaders also pledged “to respond to the economic and health impacts of Covid-19 and address shared challenges in the cyber space, counterterrorism, quality infrastructure investment and HADR…” Moreover, the March 2021 summit specifically took cognizance of issues such as the role of international law in the maritime domain, challenges to rules-based order in the East and South China Seas, de-nuclearization of North Korea and the need for restoring democracy in junta-ruling Myanmar.
In September 2021, in their first in-person deliberations, Quad leaders extensively looked into how vaccine distribution progressed since their first virtual meeting six months ago and what more can be done in this regard by making use of each other’s comparative advantages and strengths. The leaders also launched the ‘Quad Principles on Technology Design, Development, Governance, and Use’ to guide responsible innovation, a fellowship scheme for science and technology students from Quad nations, and has enhanced partnership in the fields of infrastructure, cybersecurity, outer space and humanitarian support to Afghanistan.
March 2022 saw an emergency virtual meeting by Quad leaders in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. Two months later, in May, they met in person in Tokyo and called for demonstrating that Quad is “a force for good, committed to bringing tangible benefits to the region”. In this regard, they launched a new partnership for maritime domain awareness in the Indo-Pacific (IPMDA) to work with regional partners in combating illegal fishing and responding to disasters by making use of information fusion centres in the Indo-Pacific sub-regions of the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands and by providing near-real-time, integrated and cost-effective data to maritime agencies in these sub-regions.
Tokyo also saw the announcement of a new HADR partnership to further strengthen collaboration in effectively responding to disasters in the region. A new working group on counterterrorism was announced during the Quad foreign ministers’ meeting in March 2023 in New Delhi, India. The next summit was scheduled to be held in Sydney, Australia. But the U.S. President’s inability to attend the summit led to its cancellation and instead the four leaders met in Hiroshima on the sidelines of the G7 summit. Japan, thus, got to host two Quad summits in a row. In 2024, it will be India’s turn to host the leaders’ summit.
All Quad countries, along with several other regional countries, chose to participate in the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) launched in Tokyo, just ahead of the 2022 Quad summit. This gives Washington an expanded economic footprint in the region at a time when Chinese economic engagement with regional actors is increasing steadily and progressively. 2022 also saw the launch of the ‘Quad Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Package’ (Q-CHAMP) and the ‘Quad Clean Hydrogen Partnership’.
A partnership that predates its name itself
In fact, cooperation among the United States, India, Australia and Japan predates the idea of the Quad itself. Nearly two decades ago, when the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 wreaked havoc in the Indian Ocean, the four nations came together to coordinate humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations by forming a ‘Tsunami Core Group’ and acted as first responders to the looming humanitarian crisis and their collective effort continued till mid-January 2005 before handing over the mission to the United Nations.
So, even before the idea of Quad as such took shape, the four-nation grouping had its first item in its agenda – HADR. The phrase “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue” (QSD), predecessor of the present-day Quad, and the maritime construct of “Indo-Pacific” made its entry into the politico-diplomatic lexicon only three years later, led by the persuasive leadership of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. The first QSD was held in May 2007 on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Manila, only to get disbanded the following year due to Australia’s withdrawal and differences on what the grouping’s aims and objectives should be in the years ahead.
Australia backed off primarily due to the diplomatic pressure and the prospect of a promising economic relationship with a rising China. Together with unfavourable regime changes in Canberra and Tokyo in the end of 2007, the Quad remained in a dormant state for about a decade from 2008 to 2017. The fact that China successfully managed to persuade Australia to come out of the Quad just a year after its formation says a lot about Beijing’s negative perceptions of the grouping, or to be precise the perception of it as a U.S.-led attempt to build an “Asian NATO” to contain its rise.
The grouping was given a new life in 2017 when the Donald Trump Administration in the United States (January 2017 to January 2021) took a special interest in reviving it by initiating a working group for ‘consultations on issues of common interest in the Indo-Pacific region’. From November 2017 to March 2021, senior officials from the four Quad nations met seven times and the foreign ministers met thrice, one each in 2019, 2020, and 2021 respectively.
The grouping was finally upgraded to the summit-level in 2021 and then it was followed by in-person summits in 2021, 2022 and 2023, while the foreign ministers continue to meet annually as a precursor to the summits. Today, there is a greater convergence of interests between the Quad partners, which is unlikely to shrink any time soon. The disruptive nature of China’s rise has been a constant factor that has influenced, and is influencing, agenda-setting within the grouping, particularly as a “balance of power” mechanism.
Today, the broad range of areas where the Quad countries cooperate on, as mentioned earlier, happen to be arenas of wider strategic competition with Beijing, even though they don’t wish to acknowledge it explicitly. Taking into account the current trajectory of conflictual nature of geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific, these areas of cooperation and arenas of competition are poised to expand further and further with time. However, what needs to be seen in the years to come is the extent to which Quad dares to tread when it comes to the realm of hard security outside of a formal alliance.
African Agenda in G20
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