The World’s largest democracy, the world’s oldest democracy and two others have come together to form an informal strategic group called Quad. The Quad consists of India, the United States of America, Japan and Australia. The group is formed by countries with varied strengths that all the members can benefit from.
The volume of the country’s production, once hampered by the lockdowns that began in 2020, had effects that reached farther than the country's political borders. The Covid-19 pandemic shocked the world by disrupting the global supply chain, and inflation's effects are still being experienced even after the pandemic has ended. In the year 2021, Chinese exports amounted to around $3.36 trillion. The world realised that they have been too dependent on just one country for many critical products, from drug APIs to finished goods.
So to tackle this challenge, a few countries started uniting their expertise. This is how the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad was formed. So today, let us understand what is Quad and how India is benefitting from it.
What is Quad and its History?
Quad started as maritime cooperation among the four participant countries after the Tsunami of 2004. Later on, the first official meeting was organized in 2017, and Japan initially laid the foundation of the Quad as all four countries were democratic nations.
But for many years, there was not a lot of development among these countries as a group. Then, in 2017, the India-China dispute in Doklam led India to focus on reviving the Quad and partnering with like-minded countries.
In 2019, the ministers of the Quad met in Bangkok to discuss certain reforms. Then, Covid-19 and India-China clash in Galwan Valley in May 2020 caused India to start focusing on Quad with greater intensity. Also, China barred Australia’s meat and wine export by increasing tariffs imposed on importing said goods from the latter country. Japan has issues with China over the Senkaku island, and the USA wants to maintain its influence in the Indo-Pacific region. So, the four countries had a unity of interests due to a common menace.
The Quad’s goal is "a shared vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific". This vision was shared in a joint statement in March 2021. The Quad is also referred to as “Asian NATO”, although there is no such security alliance among the group. But in 2021, the navies of the four countries conducted a Malabar exercise in the Indian Ocean region.
Despite their shared qualms with China, Australia’s ex-Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated that the formation of Quad is not aimed at countering China. To the same effect, he even invited China to join similar initiatives.
Quad country capabilities
It has been mentioned before that the four members of the Quad came together to combine the benefits each of the countries enjoyed and share the same with the other member nations. But what exactly are these benefits? Here’s a quick rundown:
The USA spends a fortune on research and development and has advanced technologies.
While Japan suffers from a shrinking working population, it still has manufacturing expertise.
Australia has a rich supply of raw materials and rare earth metals that can help strengthen its position on the global supply chain of raw materials in times of global disruptions like the Russia-Ukraine war.
India has one of the largest labour forces and is the second most populous country on the planet. As a result, India can help manufacture goods at a significantly large scale at a lower cost.
How is India benefitting from Quad initiatives
In 2021, the Quad leaders started an initiative to manufacture and supply at least one billion units of various Covid-19 vaccines.
Not many countries can manufacture and control the 5G equipment and semiconductors, so for diversification purposes, the Quad has announced an initiative for it. It will benefit India as it is trying to attract silicon chip manufacturing companies. Initiatives such as these can help India become self-reliant and can fulfil the purpose of the government’s “Atmanirbhar Bharat” initiative.
At the Virtual summit of Quad in May 2022, US president Joe Biden announced IPEF (Indo-Pacific Economic Framework). It is not a traditional trade agreement providing market access to other countries like the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership). Still, it promotes fair trade, supply chain initiatives, infrastructure, and climate change.
The leaders also announced a $50 billion fund for infrastructure development in the Indo-Pacific region over the next five years. It will be an assistance fund for developing nations in the Indo-pacific region that can boost development and bring prosperity.
It has also unveiled plans for a satellite-based maritime initiative where it can track illegal fishing in other nations’ territories in the Indo-Pacific region. Many times, Chinese ships used to fish illegally in other nations’ territories which caused a big loss to said nations. With the implementation of a satellite-based surveillance system, the victim countries can be warned against such illegal fishing. Experts have also hinted that this system can also be used for military data collection.
The Quad Fellowship has been started for the students of Quad countries to help create the next generation of scholars. It is a scholarship program to benefit students who cannot afford the exorbitant fees associated with higher education. Students can get up to $50,000 that can be used for tuition fees, research and other academic expenses. It is for students of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) field.
The Bottom Line
Quad has helped its member nations in terms of economic prosperity and security. It has benefitted India a lot, and with time the collaboration between these countries will continue to rise. There will be more announcements and developments in the coming years. So far, the Quad’s activities have been limited to climate change, supply chain initiatives, and maritime data sharing. However, China has rightly pointed out that we are returning to the Cold war mentality where only a few countries make coalitions and work on their specific prosperity.
The small nations in the Indo-Pacific that don't have significant industrial growth or comparatively lower GDP are set to benefit the most from the Quad, especially from its infrastructure fund.