Quad Leaders’ Summit – Explained, pointwise

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Introduction

On September 24, at the White House, the first-ever in-person (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) Quad Leaders’ Summit took place. Following the developments of the first virtual Quad summit of the four leaders in March 2021, this meeting builds upon the intention of the Quad member nations to ensure rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region.

This Quad meeting is significant as it is set against the backdrop of withdrawal of the US from Afghanistanthe formation of the AUKUS security allianceand following the release of the European Union’s Indo-Pacific strategy.

The leaders of Quad nations have also put forth ambitious initiatives that deepen their ties and advance practical cooperation on 21st-century challenges. These include ending the COVID-19 pandemic, promoting high standards in infrastructure; combatting the climate crisis, partnering on emerging technologies, and cultivating next-generation talent in all Quad countries.

Read more: About the previous Quad meeting and its progress
Key outcomes of Quad Leaders’ Summit

COVID and Global Health: Quad leaders already launched the Quad Vaccine Partnership in March. The Quad leaders have pledged to donate more than 1.2 billion vaccine doses globally, in addition to the doses provided under the COVAX program.

Build Back Better Health Security: The Quad nations commit to better preparing the member countries and the world for the next pandemic. They also committed to build and conduct at least one pandemic preparedness tabletop or exercise in 2022.

The Quad nations have committed to strengthening science and technology cooperation in support of the 100-Day Mission now and into the future. This includes collaboration on current and future clinical trials, such as launching additional sites for the international Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) trials.

Note: 100-Day mission: It is a mission to have safe and effective vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics available within 100 days.

Quad Leaders’ Summit on Infrastructure: The Quad nations launched Quad Infrastructure Coordination Group. This group will meet regularly to share assessments of regional infrastructure needs and coordinate respective approaches to deliver transparent, high standards in infrastructure.

Quad Leaders’ Summit on Climate change: Quad countries share a serious concern with the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report. The Quad nations will soon announce a clean-hydrogen partnership to strengthen and reduce costs across all elements of the clean-hydrogen value chain.

The Quad leaders also agreed to form a Green-Shipping Network. This network is dedicated to greening and decarbonizing the shipping value chain of ports in Quad countries. The Quad Shipping Task Force has been constituted, and it will aim to establish two to three Quad low-emission or zero-emission shipping corridors by 2030.

Apart from that, The Quad countries will convene a Climate & Information Services Task Force. It will provide technical assistance in small island developing states.

People-to-People Exchange and Education: To build ties among the next generation of scientists and technologists, Quad partners announced the Quad Fellowship. The Fellowship, a first-of-its-kind scholarship program that will sponsor 100 students per year—25 from each Quad country—to pursue masters and doctoral degrees at leading STEM graduate universities in the United States.

Collaboration in Critical and Emerging Technologies: The Quad leaders are committed to working together to foster an open, accessible, and secure technology ecosystem.

Quad partners will launch a joint initiative, Semiconductor Supply Chain Initiative, to map capacity, identify vulnerabilities, and bolster supply-chain security for semiconductors and their vital components.

The Quad has launched a Track 1.5 industry dialogue on Open RAN for 5G deployment and adoption, coordinated by the Open RAN Policy Coalition.

Quad Leaders’ Summit on Cybersecurity: The Quad nations will launch the Quad Senior Cyber Group to bolster critical infrastructure resilience against cyber threats.

Quad Leaders’ Summit on Space cooperation: The four countries will start discussions to exchange Earth observation satellite data and analysis on climate-change risks and the sustainable use of oceans and marine resources.

Must read: Quad Summit and its relevance – Explained, Pointwise
What are the present challenges associated with Quad?

Firstly, The formation of the AUKUS security alliance: The AUKUS agreement had “de-securitised the Quad”. For example, recently, the US has said that the Quad is [a] vehicle which largely operates in security realms that are non-military, non-defence. The US also mentioned that Quad is purposed differently from the AUKUS. The US mention Quad as “a cooperative effort to work on things like energy, people-to-people exchanges and infrastructure and supply chain resilience.”

Further, the AUKUS opens the way for other minilateral groupings for specific purposes; India-Australia-Indonesia; India-Japan-Australia and India-Australia-France. 

On the other hand, with AUKUS, the Quad will not focus on extremism and terrorism in the regions of Indo-Pacific and regions around Asia. This is visible as the recent Quad Leaders’ Summit does not have any initiative or joint declaration on extremism and terrorism in the region. So, this will not help India as it faces a renewed terror challenge from Pakistan’s proxies and with the rise of the Taliban.

Read more: Implications of the rise of Taliban for India – Explained, pointwise

So Happymon Jacob is of the view that the AUKUS has the potential to become a major military/security arrangement in the Indo-Pacific, and the Quad/Quad Plus could end up becoming a talk shop within the Indo-Pacific.

Secondly, Quad failed to utilise the opportunity during the pandemic: The Covid pandemic could have been a great opportunity for Quad countries to provide alternative development finance. For instance, Quad can easily offer loans to the countries like Nepal, Indonesia or African nations to improve its commitments. Further, it may provide vaccines to improve its humanitarian credentials. But, Quad failed to utilise the pandemic to its advantage.

Thirdly, Quad is not a proper institution: Quad neither shares a strategic vision nor has any shared agenda. Similarly, Quad neither has a secretariat or a charter, like the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), nor a clear set of activities such as AUKUS. So, Quad seems to offer no clear purpose which, as a result, leads to too many items crowding the agenda. With too many items on its agenda, the Quad faces the danger of becoming a talk shop with very little actual work.

There is little interest in properly institutionalising the Quad nor has the objective for ‘Quad Plus’ been purposefully pursued. Further, its members despite being anti-China continue to forge ties with China. For example, American investors hold $1 trillion of Chinese equity, and 75% of U.S. companies in China continue to invest there.

Fourthly, India failed to materialise Quad: Raja Menon is of the view that India’s missed opportunities with Quad. He believes that with the introduction of the Quad, India had an opportunity to operationalise the coalition and set up a Quad secretariat in India.

India could have easily pushed the Quad to focus on the maritime domain. But, India so far did not take the Quad beyond diplomatic talks and failed to push Quad into the areas of common interest. This led to the formation of other groups in the region such as AUKUS focusing specifically on the maritime domain.

Fifthly, Individual visions of Quad nations regarding Indo-Pacific: Quad is aimed at the Indo-Pacific and is not a security alliance. But, the Indo-Pacific system, as muted by Quad, is not clear. Even the British Empire never managed to combine the Indo and the Pacific into a unitary system. Further, each Quad nations have separate visions for Indo-Pacific.

So, it would be difficult to align the combined vision of the Quad nations in one vision.

Sixthly, sharing critical technologies by the US: The Quad nations aim to collaborate on critical technologies, supply chains and infrastructure. This requires a great deal of cooperation between Quad nations. But whether the US will actually share its most advanced capabilities is an open question due to two important reasons.

  1. India and the US have some contradictory interests when it comes to the global debate on trade deals, climate negotiations and development policies
  2. Experiences from the Covid pandemic has shown how advanced countries, especially the US, hoarded vaccines and put their national interest in front.
How to improve the performance of Quad?

Bringing in more inclusion in Quad: The countries should work with other countries in the Indo-Pacific Region. This will help to maintain independent security and economic policies, capacity building of other countries, etc. Further, such initiatives will provide credible alternatives to unilateral Chinese objectives and initiatives. Recent initiatives such as Climate & Information Services Task Force will help to fulfill such objectives.

Leverage each other strengths and not focus on weaknesses in Quad summits and Quad frameworks. For example, talks on developing global governance architecture, supply-chains initiatives, etc. can be given priority in Quad summits.

Strategic autonomy: India should not compromise its strategic interests in the US-based western interests. This has to be clear at every Quad Summit, as India is the only Quad member to share a non-demarcated land border with China.

India has to improve the trade among Quad nations and continue engaging with the Quad for regional stability.

Broaden notion of security: India should push the Quad to go beyond the diplomatic group. This will not only aid India’s internal security, but also help to maintain regional security in Indo-Pacific.

Conclusion

The recent Quad Leaders’ Summit set the stage for Quad members to collaborate with each other, the Quad nations should capitalise on that and move further to strengthen the Quad. This will make Quad a holistic initiative rather than an arrangement of like-minded countries against one particular country.

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