Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes part in the First Quad Leaders’ Virtual Summit with US President Joe Biden, Australian PM Scott Morrison and Japanese PM Suga, in New Delhi on 12 March 2021 | ANI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes part in the First Quad Leaders’ Virtual Summit with US President Joe Biden, Australian PM Scott Morrison and Japanese PM Suga, in New Delhi on 12 March 2021 | ANI
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Amid increasing recognition of the Asia-Pacific Region (APR) as the engine and centre of future global development and growth, it is important to highlight the historic event held on 12 March 2021—the high-level virtual summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) of the United States, Japan, Australia, and India. The unofficial format of the Quad has been promoted by its participants since 2007, at the behest of Tokyo with varying degrees of activity, national involvement, and success.

The rapid analysis of the thematic publications of the leading Asian—mainly Indian—analytical centres suggest the following general conclusions. Predictably, the key narrative has been a cause-effect link between the increase in action of the Quad and China’s unilateral and expansionist actions in the region. In this regard, the new U.S. administration seeks to involve its regional partners in the confrontation with Beijing, including within the Indo-Pacific Region.

As the Quad approaches the intended institutionalisation, its participants seem determined to work more closely with key regional actors. Thus, to reassure the ASEAN member countries amidst the geopolitical turbulence, the leaders reaffirmed their strong support for ASEAN’s unity and centrality. However, many ASEAN countries do not want to openly take sides in the confrontation between the U.S. and China. Most of them welcome the U.S. presence in the region. Concurrently, they are aware of the benefits of cooperation with China, which will in any case remain the main trading partner.

Having regard to the plans of France, Great Britain, and Germany to deepen cooperation with the Indo-Pacific Region, experts do not rule out the future expansion of the Quad. While maritime safety dominated the summit agenda, the focus was on the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and human health, climate change, common challenges in cyberspace, critical technologies, counterterrorism, investment in quality infrastructure, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief. The Quad leaders agreed to launch a vaccine cooperation program for the Indo-Pacific Region, with a focus on Southeast Asia (ASEAN), which, if successful, could be replicated in other sectors. The stated goal of the initiative is to address a severe healthcare challenge by creating opportunities for rapid vaccination of a large number of people. Clearly, this initiative deserves approval and support. A closer look, however, reveals a latent attempt to counter China’s vaccine diplomacy—Health Silk Road— which already covers more than 60 countries around the world.


Also read: Ladakh didn’t work out for China. It will now drive a wedge between Quad partners


In many ways, the Quad’s decision to focus on fighting the pandemic marks a new approach to China. While the Biden administration continues to adhere to Trump’s methods on this issue, it also seeks to create the added value, especially in terms of building multilateralism and creating a complex challenge to Beijing.

On the eve of the summit, the Global Times—the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s paramount mouthpiece—had warned that an attempt to replicate NATO in Asia will not succeed. In turn, Russia has previously positioned the Quad as a new game of the West, designed to involve India in anti-Chinese strategies and undermine Indo-Russian relations. Given that rhetoric, the Quad member countries’ major task will be to balance economic ties in the region while simultaneously curbing the expansion of China. All Quad countries are heavily dependent on Chinese supply chains, and each country is more economically integrated with China than with one another. This applies in particular to India and Japan. China is their first or second largest trading partner. Therefore, a number of Indian analysts believe that New Delhi will be able to breathe life into the project becoming an alternative to the Chinese world factory.

India is certainly considered an essential element of any strategy in the region. But so far, New Delhi has not dared either to directly align itself with the U.S. to contain China or add an outright anti-Chinese dimension to its participation in the quartet. Meanwhile, the growing gap in national power, the long-term border confrontation, and other related factors might well push Indian strategists to a certain revision of the policy of strategic autonomy and make the U.S. the main security donor, as in the case of Australia and Japan.

The Quad can set the framework for a global governance model in a post-pandemic world, but it is unlikely to become a NATO-like formal security alliance. Its evolution will be determined by its ability to mix global challenges in the interests of a wider range of countries. On the other hand, whatever form it eventually takes, the March summit will have an impact on the region’s geopolitics. In theory, such dynamics may push Beijing to institutionalise the Himalayan Quad project involving China, Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan as a counterweight to the Quad. The pandemic turbulence, which has exposed China-centric vulnerabilities and dependencies, has already spurred India, Japan, and Australia to launch a separate global Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI), which involves their realignment away from China. For many countries in Asia and Oceania, the Chinese factor is the main driver of large-scale arms imports. According to recent data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), this particular region was marked as the largest importer of conventional weapons in 2020, accounting for 42 percent of world trade. All while the main importers were India, Australia, China, South Korea, and Pakistan.


Also read: For India, Quad is just one option. US-China meet at Anchorage shows that


Indian analysts use a figure of speech noting that the APR becomes the jackpot in the planet’s geo-strategic sweepstakes and the centre-stage on which the new edition of the great game is being enacted. Also, it is difficult to argue that the region belongs to the geopolitical space where the celestial empire—China—challenges both the United States and the Asian status quo in an effort to pursue the Chinese dream and gain a status of a great world power.

Thus, the seemingly inevitable and obvious trend of shifting the centre of the world’s geopolitics and geoeconomics to APR suggests that the coming “Asian Century” will be eventful and hardly anybody can remain unaffected. This specifically refers to those enthusiasts who will be able to timely and accurately see its hidden potential and benefits from the point of view of national interests and formulate the outlines of their own unique strategy for the Asian manoeuvre.

Yuri M Yarmolinsky is an Analyst with the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Research. He is a former Counsellor of the Embassy of the Republic Belarus to the Republic of India. Views are personal.

This article was first published by Observer Research Foundation (ORF).  

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19 COMMENTS

  1. As, the QUAD is now a need for india but it will need some other actions.First,as a part of vigil our guards to keep eye on not only on China but also on northern frontier. Since our neighbors are not friendly,this hawk eye has to be exerciseed on Pakistan also. Secondly,the change in India ‘s response away from a status quo position represent a doctrinal shift in how it deals with recalcitrant neighbors. If this is to be in future too. It would in our interest to lay out our policies by issuing a national security strategy (NSS)to prepare , warn and take action if an evil eye is cast on our interests. Thirdly, if this would be the stances of the Indian state in the future then it will be credible. It is imperatives that capacities and self sufficiencies in hard power built with same determination as our (NSS). Fourthly, QUAD should more inclusive, open minded and armed organization and last We can not ignore Russia because Russia is time tested friend of india.

  2. The pandemic turbulence, which has exposed China-centric vulnerabilities and dependencies, has already spurred India, Japan, and Australia to launch a separate global Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI), which involves their realignment away from China. For many countries in Asia and Oceania, the Chinese factor is the main driver of large-scale arms imports.

    Comment: China didn’t qualify to become major world supply chain nation just by the technological help of the west, they developed their own basics & advances for manufacturing.
    Now India to take on China as alternate supply nation for the west is either impossible or will take another 20 years to reach today’s China. Till then China will be at or on return from Mars & moon!
    Hence it’s better for the world to give the future superpower it’s due respect & recognition instead of picking up rivalry or war that can’t be won

    • Well it’s not India which is taking on China, but it’s the Quad which is doing so. So the question of twenty years do not arise, if USA can help to create a supply chain in China, the Quad countries can also do it fast. Doing reverse engineering or stealing technology do not make you a advanced nation. By the way Chowikdar didn’t cede any Indian territory, it was done by gutless Nehru and Manmohan Singh.

  3. China didn’t qualify to become major world supply chain nation just by the technological help of the west, they developed their own basics & advances for manufacturing.
    Now India to take on China as alternate supply nation for the west is either impossible or will take another 20 years to reach today’s China. Till then China will be at or on return from Mars & moon!
    Hence it’s better for the world to give the future superpower it’s due respect & recognition instead of picking up rivalry or war that can’t be won.

  4. The pandemic turbulence, which has exposed China-centric vulnerabilities and dependencies, has already spurred India, Japan, and Australia to launch a separate global Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI), which involves their realignment away from China. For many countries in Asia and Oceania, the Chinese factor is the main driver of large-scale arms imports.

    Comment: China didn’t qualify to become major world supply chain nation just by the technological help of the west, they developed their own basics & advances for manufacturing.
    Now India to take on China as alternate supply nation for the west is either impossible or will take another 20 years to reach today’s China. Till then China will be at or on return from Mars & moon!
    Hence it’s better for the world to give the future superpower it’s due respect & recognition instead of picking up rivalry or war that can’t be won.

  5. Whatever the merits of Himayalan Quad, the Quad that India is trumpeting is toothless and useless. India has a border with China, and the other three are not going to come to fight for India when China nibbles away. We are led by a gutless chowkidar who ceded land quietly, but boasts about many other things. Hence, China (who I dislike also) has the upper hand. The RSS and Bajrang Dal fellows are cowards, they are good for fighting with 4 Christian ladies on a train, but that is all.

    • For people like you chowkidar is useless..But as of today if the world is at least listening to India..it is bcoz of his untiring efforts. Covid diplomacy is slowly but surely making an impact. It takes time for everything…to become atmanirbhar also needs time… If it takes 20 yrs so be it..but sceptics like you will never accept the importance of it. The only way forward for the country is to have a good robust manufacturing base and infrastructure. Thnxs to the previous govt the nation was sold off in return for pocket money for 1 fly….

  6. Sounds like a frightening proposition, but really, a “Himalayan Quad” with Pakistan , Nepal and Afghanistan????? Why not include North Korea, irrespective of the location???

    Look, if at all Pakistan had any ideas on ganging up with China, it’s first step will not be a LOC ceasefire agreement with India. Let alone the disagreements between China and Pakistan on Xinjiang and CPEC.

    Afghanistan, is still a friend of India. Sure that could change, but becoming one of the poles of Himalayan Quad, especially against India and U.S.A. Forget about it already.

    Nepal is the more resourceful of the three, can also hurt India in many ways. But for that, Nepal hast to be ready to swallow Chinese territorial ambitions and most importantly cut off civilizational ties with India. Not to mention trade and the cross border employment of soo many Nepalese. Not considering the Gorkhas current and former from Indian Defence Forces. Once Nepal goes that way, the british would also want to think twice about Chinese allied Gorkhas in their regiments.

    So, you have one country (Afghanistan) nothing to offer (military capability wise), one country (Pakistan) that is bankrupt and survives on goodwill of past masters and the other (Nepal) which will suffer the most if it joins the so called “Himalayan Quad”.

    So there is nothing to worry for India and the real quad.

      • The “point of view” is supposed to the concept of “Himalayan Quad”. Nothing to do with bravado or chowkidar.

        At long last Indian Govt., as well as the Indian Defense Forces have come to their senses that a) China is not to be trusted b) China has no plans for bi-polar (Multi-polar) Asia. But India already knew following: China was, is and will be a formidable competitor/opponent/enemy. So there is no fake Bravado in India’s part.

        But, the “Himalayan Quad”, using the analogy of Mr. Wang Yi (Chinese FM), will blow away like himalayan winds before even it is formed.

        Chowkidar or any other guy, the Indian response might not be much different to what happened in 2020.

  7. Firstly, China can try to form partnerships with governments but it will never be able to get the support of the people of the country it may try to partner with. Quad, on the other hand will easily be supported by people.

    Secondly, all it’s partner countries ( excepting Russia ) are supplicants and have hardly any thing of value to give in return. This will breed resentment all around leading to breakdown in relations and China trying to grab whatever essential items it can from that country.

    Thirdly, the only major assets that partners have are raw materials, like oil, minerals and specially land. China’s needs will force it to grab assets and try to take land routes to strategic places ( e.g Gwadar in Pakistan is a strategic asset and China cannot afford to have its access blocked by Pakistanis/ Afghans/ Baluchis) under its own control causing major issues with partners.
    Even Iran can provide limited support, even if it at all decides to come out openly in favour of China.

    Far East countries already have a very uneasy relationship with China.

    Keeping all this in mind, Quad, if it grows properly has the potential to break Chinese back.

  8. The author has put up a balanced article. However, I am not so convinced by his Chinese Quad concept. India must step up and take the Chinese bull by the horns. China is a rogue and terrorist bully state. The problem is that everyone is scared to call China a bully, including the author of this article. India must call China a bully and you will see China disintegrating. China, like it’s goods, is all bravado but limited substance.

    • Modi has not acknowledged the Chinese took land. The chowkidar is a coward.

      ‘China, like it’s goods, is all bravado but limited substance.’

      Is that why India boycotted TikTok and now quietly lifted the bans and is seeking FDI from China.

  9. This is an insightful article. The author is balanced and offers a realistic view of the APR as the future power centre.

  10. Himalayan Quad is a figment of imagination. Nepal has cultural affinity to India and Afghanistan is too occupied with its internal violence to worry about geopolitics. Pakistan is the only ally of CCP in real sense.

  11. The Chinese just opened their first beer factory in Pakistan. The day when they open their first pork farm there is not very far. Little wonder why they want peace with India. Nepal and Afghanistan will never be security threats to India directly, at best some of their policies can be classified as “irritants”.

    Also, is Russia bothered by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania forming an informal grouping with US? Why would India be. Equating Quad with a supposed Himalayan Quad is far fetched.

  12. A Chinese Quad with Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangla Desh etc. is a laughable idea. First of all, India is not inimical to any country; it is China which is behaving irrationally. So India is only responding to the Chinese aggressive behavior. Second, India knows that it will fight its own war and hence, it does not need to join any alliance or sign a treaty of mutual defense unlike in 1971 but it needs latest defense equipment and technology from USA as well as from France, Russia and Israel, however, conflicting it could be. So Quad will be an amorphous arrangement for India to protect its security and maritime interests in IOR and Indo pacific. For land border and air force, India needs Russian S 400.

    But overall, scene of action will be Asia in future and all the world powers will be sucked into it. Over next 10 years or so, if Chinese dominance in supply chain is replaced by India, there could be major shifts in balance of power in the world.

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