US President Joe Biden is holding the first in-person meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, better known as “the Quad,” an informal strategic forum of the United States, Australia, Japan and India — all democratic countries with a vested interest in countering China’s rise in Asia.
Biden will be joined in Washington by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Indian leader Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to discuss “promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific,” according to White House.
The CNN reports that the meeting comes at a time of great change for US policy in Asia. As the Biden administration moves to strengthen its diplomatic partnerships in the region, Japan is taking an increasingly hawkish view of China’s military buildup. At the same time, Australia’s AUKUS defense pact with the US and the United Kingdom has solidified Washington’s commitment to Asia while making some important Southeast Asian partners uneasy.
At this critical point, what the Quad chooses to do next is more important than ever. Australian Strategic Policy Institute senior analyst Malcolm Davis said compared to its early roots under the George W. Bush administration, the Quad had evolved from a “low key political and economic dialogue” to a very significant player in the Asia Pacific region.
“The Quad is not an Asian NATO … but at the same time it is clearly moving in the direction of a cooperative security approach,” Davis said.
The new American outreach was enthusiastically welcomed in Australia and earlier this month the two governments joined the UK to announce AUKUS, an agreement by which the three nations would exchange military information and technology to form a closer defense partnership in Asia.
Japan has also welcomed greater US involvement in the region. After attempting to pursue a warmer China policy in the early years of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s time as leader, Japan has grown increasingly wary of Beijing over the past year.
In an unusually blunt interview with CNN in September, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Japan would resolutely defend its territory in the East China Sea “against Chinese action.”
Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said India was now the most cautious member of the Quad and how far the group is willing to push on defense cooperation and antagonizing China might depend on Delhi.
Following a border clash between India and China in mid-2020, which resulted in the deaths of at least 20 Indian soldiers, experts said Delhi has been reluctant to antagonize Beijing.
Part of the cooperation involves improved tracking and targeting technology, Jash said. “(There is) an imperative need for India to keep close watch on Chinese (military) movements along the Himalayan border and in mapping China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean,” she added.
A united Quad could help deter any further aggression by the Chinese government toward Taiwan, according to Ben Scott, director of the Australia’s Security and the Rules-based Order Project at Sydney’s Lowy Institute.