Quad must deepen security cooperation

Leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the United States (US) can focus on their economic partnership when they meet in Japan for the second time this month as a quad. The trade agreement is currently out of the question: New trade agreements are not supported in the US Congress. However, the US has proposed the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) to promote economic connectivity, resilience, sustainability and accountability and is in the process of negotiating with partners on this initiative. Although in some ways an extension of US President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, the success of the IPEF depends on its details and the feedback and participation of other countries.

But in spite of its growing profile, activities and importance, the quad should not lose sight of security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, which is significant for regional energy balance. Over the past year, quad cooperation has made significant progress in several other key areas. These include critical and emerging technology cooperation, vaccine diplomacy, infrastructure, humanitarian assistance, scientific collaboration and space. Some initiatives are still being developed, but others – such as the Kovid-19 vaccines and university research fellowships – have received private sector support and have near-term tangible results.

In fairness, quad security cooperation is already underway. In the readout, four countries have revealed discussions on maritime security in Myanmar, Afghanistan, North Korea and the Indo-Pacific. Four countries’ intelligence leaders and cybersecurity coordinators met in a group meeting. The Malabar Naval exercise combines four naval forces, engaged in temporary exercises with Canada and South Korea (anti-submarine warfare), the United Kingdom (UK) and France.

But security cooperation between quad countries remains largely bilateral. The four engage in 2 + 2 interactions with each other, including their foreign and defense ministers. He also conducts military personnel talks; Organize military exercises involving ground, air and sea forces; Enjoy logistics-sharing agreements with each other; And have constructive conversations on maritime security, defense technology and counterterrorism. Recently, Japan and Australia concluded an agreement to facilitate military presence on each other’s ground. The US and Australia (along with the UK) have entered into a system known as AUKUS to cooperate on sensitive technologies, including nuclear submarine propulsion.

Here are three reasons why security cooperation should not be a top priority for all four quad countries. First, in other regional Indo-Pacific countries – including South and Southeast Asia – quad military cooperation may escalate rather than reduce tensions with China. In contrast, the non-security focus of the quad has been welcomed in Southeast Asia; In an elite survey last year, 60% of Southeast Asian respondents favored a strong quad with mostly insecure attention.

Secondly, bilateral security partnerships between quad countries are different from each other and are therefore likely to progress at different rates. On one end of the spectrum, the US has decades-long alliances with Japan and Australia, including a history of overseas basing and joint operations. In contrast, India’s security partnerships with Japan and Australia – despite impressive progress over the past two decades – are relatively new and unlikely to resemble US treaty alliances.

Third, the security partnership between quad nations benefits from its flexibility. There is no political hunger or expectation of mutual protection. The quad, therefore, does not resemble the Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Indeed, close cooperation is driven in large part by the acknowledgment of restricted resources. Budgetary restrictions mean that the US Navy will not be able to operate in the Indian Ocean to meet future challenges, but the Indian Navy will always be more limited to the east of the Strait of Malacca. The quad is not about the fact that all four countries are everywhere at once, but, in fact, about the distribution of labor when it comes to security over the vast area.

Nevertheless, a lot can still be done. The first focus should be on the sharing of information and intelligence – including but not limited to – the maritime domain. This requires the integration of information from maritime patrol planes, drones, satellites and submarine sensors. Although maritime domain awareness cooperation is increasing bilaterally, the information collected by all four countries can be more seamlessly integrated to meet certain shared security objectives. This complements the current intelligence linkages between the four countries and the sharing of strategic evaluations by the authorities.

The second field may include operational coordination. This can be done through legal systems to facilitate cross-servicing, resupply and refueling, mid-air refueling, ship repair and the like. In the past, Indian analysts have been concerned about such systems undermining Indian sovereignty, which do not need to be automated or intrusive. Instead, India would benefit from such support to expand its military presence. Moreover, such practices of cooperation can be effectively used against non-traditional security threats such as illegal fishing, piracy, smuggling, disaster relief and weapons of mass destruction.

Ultimately the third area of ​​cooperation may be concerned with improving defense capabilities, including trade, manufacturing and technology. In all four countries, there are ongoing efforts to localize defense production for security, economic and political reasons. But joint efforts to integrate supply chains – particularly in less sensitive areas – complement the use of some common platform quad countries, such as aircraft and helicopters. Joint research and development can prove to be very complicated in most cases – given the differences in requirements and acquisition systems – but may be worth exploring in the future.

The quad has certainly come a long way in relatively short time, contradicting the predictions of many skeptics. To its credit, the Biden administration did not abandon the quad despite its previous relationship with the Donald Trump administration. This has resulted in multiple structural linkages within the four governments and improved technology and economic cooperation.

But if the quad should help maintain a stable energy balance in the Indo-Pacific, and continue to provide the area with public goods, security cooperation needs to deepen. This requires acknowledging the concerns of partner countries, taking careful steps, and slowly cultivating trust and cooperation practices. As the war between Russia and Ukraine demonstrates, we are entering a dangerous new world in which the prospect of great power competition turning into a great power conflict is no longer possible.

Dhruva Jaishankar Executive Director, ORF America

The opinions expressed are personal

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