JUST IN: Report Urges Quad to Increase Indo-Pacific Defense Efforts
While leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue have insisted the group is not a military alliance, the participating nations should collaborate on more security efforts going forward, a new report says.
The Quad — consisting of the United States, Australia, Japan and India — works together to address a variety of issues in the Indo-Pacific region. Conceived in 2007 by former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe — who was assassinated on July 8 — the Quad was revived in 2017 after a 10-year hiatus.
Since then, meetings between Quad leaders have ramped up, and the dialogue has become “a central pillar in the Biden administration’s strategic plan to compete more effectively with a rising China,” the report from the Center for a New American Security says. The report, titled “Operationalizing the Quad,” points to China’s aggressive posture in the Indo-Pacific as the major factor behind the re-emergence of the Quad.
“Substantial new military power appears to be emboldening China’s approach toward regional disputes,” the report states. “Chinese economic coercion aimed at Australia and border aggression toward India reinforced for these countries the benefits of the Quad as a way for powerful like-minded democracies to combine resources and capabilities and take collective action to support the maintenance of a free, open, and rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific.”
To date, the United States has focused its Quad efforts on non-defense-related matters such as economics, technology and public health, the report says. Quad leaders remain adamant the group is not a military partnership.
“It’s not a security alliance,” Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said at a Defense Writers Group roundtable during a recent visit to the United States. “This is four, like-minded countries working together for the betterment of the region.”
However, as the situation in the Indo-Pacific grows more complex, Quad members may have no choice but to increase their security efforts.
“We … see it as inevitable that the Quad will have to start engaging more on defense and security issues,” said Lisa Curtis, director of the Center for a New American Security’s Indo-Pacific security program and a co-author of the report, during the report’s virtual launch event August 2. “That will simply be required, given the increasingly tense security environment in the Indo-Pacific.”
The Quad countries have common goals and outlooks regarding the security of the region, the report says, and are “well positioned” to collaborate on defense efforts. The report highlighted five key defense policy areas where the Quad could unite: “joint exercises, interoperability, and patrols; intelligence sharing and maritime domain awareness (MDA); logistics and access; defense technology development and arms sales; and capacity building with regional partners.”
The Quad has made strides in the area of maritime domain awareness, launching the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness, or IPMDA, at the Quad leaders’ summit in Tokyo this past May.
This partnership will “allow countries in the region to harness advanced satellite data … to better protect their territorial waters,” said Camille Dawson, deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, during the launch event. IPMDA will help prevent illegal fishing, which steals “billions of dollars of revenue and tons of food from coastal communities and can cause irreparable economic damage to essential fisheries,” she said.
The report recommends the Quad look for ways to expand on the IPMDA, with the goal of “creating a common operating picture for the region,” which can be shared by the four nations.
In terms of interoperability and communication, the report notes the Quad countries already participate in several joint exercises together. Australia joined the other three nations for the Malabar exercise in 2020 for the first time since 2007, and all four countries are participating in the U.S. Navy-led biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise, which concludes in Hawaii this week.
The report recommends the Quad perform more joint patrols, through which their navies can build interoperability, “while demonstrating support for a free, open, and rules-based maritime order to the rest of the region.”
Additionally, the report calls for the United States to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as the other three Quad nations have done. “Doing so would constitute a major concrete step in support of a rules-based international order and remove one of Beijing’s most potent critiques of Washington’s policy on maritime issues,” the report says.
Other defense-related recommendations the report made include forming a working group to discuss crisis management and response, jointly allocating resources to fill gaps in each country’s maritime law enforcement capabilities and looking for ways in already existing Quad working groups focused on critical and emerging technologies and space to explore “the military and defense applications of those technologies.”
“There's a lot of room to run on the security and defense agenda if the Quad members decide to deepen cooperation in those areas,” said Jacob Stokes, a co-author of the report and a fellow in the Center for a New American Security’s Indo-Pacific program.
However, how much the Quad shifts its focus to defense concerns could depend on factors out of its control, according to the report. Specifically, evolving security dynamics in the Indo-Pacific, “and the degree to which China continues to exercise its military might to intimidate countries in the region or extend its territorial claims,” it says.