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Leaders of the Quad nations will meet in Tokyo


Leaders of the Quad nations will meet in Tokyo on Tuesday in what will be one of the most important meetings in recent years affecting the geopolitics and security of the Indo-Pacific region.

The group, which includes Japan, the United States, Australia, and India, appears to be emerging from the shadows of the Covid-19 pandemic and, to some extent, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The world’s leaders are meeting for the fourth time in less than two years, having met once in Washington last September and twice virtually.

That emphasizes the significance of the Quad, which was largely a concept until 2017.

That year, then-US President Donald Trump resurrected the group in an attempt to compete with China in its own backyard.

However, analysts believe that the steady decline in each Quad nation’s bilateral ties with China in recent years has given it new impetus.

According to Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Wilson Center think tank, the latest meeting will likely focus on the Indo-Pacific region.

“With the pandemic behind us and an agreement reached on India’s position on Ukraine,” he says, “the Quad will return to its core business of ensuring an open and free Indo-Pacific.”

India has so far refused to directly criticize Russia for its war in Ukraine, but it has emphasized the importance of each nation’s sovereignty.

Following their initial outrage at India’s stance, the United States and other Western countries appear to have grasped Delhi’s position.

The 2+2 Dialogue in April, attended by the foreign and defense ministers of the United States and India, helped to bridge their differences over Ukraine.

The United States has acknowledged that India’s reliance on Russia for defense imports cannot be overlooked.

As a result, the Quad will concentrate on mutual points of convergence, with China being the most significant.

With ongoing maritime disputes with several countries and a land boundary dispute with India, China has become increasingly assertive in the region.

Beijing is heavily investing in strengthening its navy, and its recent security pact with the Solomon Islands has Australia concerned.

According to a leaked draft of the agreement, which the Australian government confirmed, Chinese warships would be allowed to dock on the islands, and Beijing could send security forces “to assist in maintaining social order.”

It will be interesting to see how Anthony Albanese, Australia’s newly elected PM, deals with this threat and how he raises the issue within the Quad framework.

Japan, for its part, has become increasingly wary of what it calls routine “incursions” from the Chinese navy.
As for the US, it is evident that it wants to protect its interests in the region.

The launch of the US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), which has 13 regional players, is a step in that direction. It aims to promote regional growth, sustainability, and inclusivity in the region.

It follows US President Joe Biden’s recent meeting with leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) in Washington.

The importance of the region can be seen in the fact that it contains some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, including the Malacca Strait.

These lanes carry 30-40 percent of the world’s trade, including goods and crude oil.

So, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US Vice President Joe Biden, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida meet in Tokyo, they may not specifically mention China, but regional security will be high on their agenda.

The Quad has several working groups, including cybersecurity, health, infrastructure, and education, but it has not explicitly stated that it will collaborate on defense.

However, it’s likely to announce a joint strategy to tackle illegal fishing in the Indo-Pacific region – which analysts say is largely aimed at China.

Mr Kugelman says this announcement would be quite significant because it involves the use of satellite imagery and active intelligence sharing – which will have security implications.

But he adds that the group will need to do a lot more before Asean nations see it as a major counterbalance to China.

It’s not that the Quad lacks a defense angle.

The four countries, along with a few others, have participated in India’s Malabar naval exercises, and the Quad has discussed issues such as Afghanistan and North Korea’s nuclear program.

Mr. Biden recently warned China that if the island is attacked, the US will intervene militarily to protect it.
However, Mr Kugelman points out that both Asean and the Quad have significant trade volumes with China and will try to avoid any direct confrontation with Beijing – at least until the Quad can emerge as the region’s net security provider.

Furthermore, Delhi collaborates with Beijing in a number of multilateral forums, including Brics, which includes Russia, South Africa, and Brazil.

“The Quad has come a long way, but it still has an informal structure and no secretariat.
So it must continue to evolve “Mr. Kugelman claims.

Meanwhile, Russia’s growing ties with China will almost certainly be mentioned, as they do not fit Delhi’s geopolitical calculations.

Some analysts believe that the Ukraine conflict will “send Russia into China’s arms,” and that Beijing will be able to persuade Moscow to increase its presence in the Indo-Pacific.

If this occurs, it will aggravate Delhi’s interests the most, as it has close ties with Russia and an ongoing dispute with China.

Mr Kugelman says it’s just a scenario for the time being, but it can’t be completely ruled out, especially given Russia’s criticism of the Quad.

Beijing’s initial reaction to the Quad was dismissive, with the group “dissipating like sea foam.”

However, it later sharpened its criticism of the group, referring to it as the “Asian Nato.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated on Sunday that the Quad was formed “to contain China.”

With both sides hardening their positions, Asean nations, some of which have active maritime disputes with China, may find themselves between “a rock and a hard place,” as one analyst put it.

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