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QUAD—A force for global good: India’s strategic imperatives

External Affairs Minister at the Quad Fo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by MEAphotogallery

India’s assertion of the QUAD as a force for global good is expected to make an impact in establishing peace, economic prosperity, and geostrategic equilibrium in the Indo-Pacific.

In the first in-person QUAD summit held recently in Washington DC in September 2021 and attended by leaders of all the four members—India, United States (US), Japan, and Australia—Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visualised the QUAD as a “force for global good”, which would promote cooperation amongst member countries and eventually ensure peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific as well as the entire world. In this context, the role and dimensions of the QUAD have been prudently revamped to make it an all-encompassing grouping comprising like-minded democracies that would effectively contain de-stabilising forces, manifested by coercive economic practices and unsettling military manoeuvring in the Indo-Pacific in a more comprehensive manner.

The aim of the group is to do this while preserving much needed equilibrium on a whole host of strategic issues that shape the dimensions of emerging geopolitics in a rapidly changing global landscape. India’s advocacy for an enhanced multidimensional role of the QUAD synergises with its evolving priorities and consistent engagement in promoting reformed multilateralism and transparency in global governance that in turn will allow for strengthening maritime security and territorial sovereignty in the Indo-Pacific region. This would, thereby, facilitating greater cohesiveness in connecting the wider Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean frontiers.

As a follow up to the first in-person meeting, the QUAD countries in the near future are expected to collaborate in space technology, revamp supply chain initiatives, cooperate on 5G deployment and diversification in conjunction with addressing the emerging challenges in the volatile Indo-Pacific in a robust manner, alongside combatting climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. In this context, it can be argued that political and diplomatic efforts by these four major democracies to enhance the functional dimensions of the QUAD into an all-inclusive grouping, which is envisaged to be a crucial force aiming at pursuing global goodness while addressing pressing geopolitical challenges, is surely going have far-reaching ramifications in resolving outstanding issues, not only in the Indo-Pacific but also in transglobal perspective, thereby, shaping the trajectory towards preserving future geostrategic equilibrium in compliance with well-established international norms.

 

"The transcendental effect of QUAD is expected to be reflected in a more dynamic manner since they are interlinked with the geostrategic, geoeconomics, humanitarian aspirations, needs, and requirements of nations in the Indo-Pacific region"

 

The primary focus of the QUAD now is to promote international cooperation and transparency in global governance mechanisms, that further reinforces the original principles on which the QUAD framework was established. This was once again reiterated in the recently held summit, where the leaders deliberated and issued the QUAD principles on technology design, development, governance, and use that would guide the future course of action, not only in the Indo-Pacific region but also the world toward fostering responsible, open, high-standards innovation. The commitment of India towards building the QUAD architecture into a meaningful and effective global force serving in the interest of humanity at large was distinctly reflected in PM Modi’s deliberations at the QUAD Summit, where he said,

“When the world is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, as QUAD, we have once again joined hands together in the interest of humanity…. Based on its shared democratic values, QUAD has decided to move forward with positive thinking and positive approach… Our QUAD will work in a way in the role of force for global good…. our cooperation in QUAD will ensure peace and prosperity in Indo-Pacific and in the world.”

At the QUAD Summit, the Indian Prime Minister reiterated India’s strong determination and resolve in playing a larger and pivotal role in concert with other like-minded democracies while further strengthening the grouping at the global stage in critical areas such as developing viable supply chain architecture, global security, climate crisis and environment safeguards, technology and connectivity issues, COVID-19 vaccine deliverables focusing on accessibility, healthcare and infrastructure capacity enhancement, amongst others that are at the forefront in QUAD priorities. Towards this, New Delhi has repeatedly provided a profound vision and direction to the international community, not only on the issue of security cooperation but also on emphasising linkage between climate change, health hazards, natural and/or man-made disasters while ensuring the use of a shared maritime heritage. This is a big realisation that puts India, as the largest democracy and responsible member in the international community, at the epicentre of reformed multilateral cooperation and heightened transparency in global governance as the QUAD emerges as a potent all-encompassing force sharing common democratic values and vision for the future, thereby, promoting welfare of humanity while combating disequilibrating forces worldwide.

Along with India, the other three member countries of the QUAD—the US, Japan, and Australia—also expressed their resolve in working together on a more holistic agenda that would facilitate an effective and impactful mix of soft-power dynamics and hard-ball measures as necessary in ensuring shared progress, peace and security, territorial integrity, and economic prosperity in the sensitive Indo-Pacific and beyond. Other critical issues deliberated in the summit were emerging technologies, connectivity and infrastructure, cyber security, maritime security, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, climate change and education—all of which are expected to have profound implications in preserving geostrategic equilibrium while promoting global well-being in a holistic manner. In each of these identified areas, New Delhi’s expertise and long-standing engagement are going to impact enormously in the overall efficacy of the outcome since India is a prominent power in the region having a unique geographical position that is marked by being at the confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans that collate the Indo-Pacific maritime domain having geopolitical, security, economic, and trade concerns. Simultaneously India’s constructive activism and interventions in the region have been consistently focusing on preserving peace and security, territorial integrity, and shared progress consistent with international rule-based architecture.

 

"New Delhi has repeatedly provided a profound vision and direction to the international community, not only on the issue of security cooperation but also on emphasising linkage between climate change, health hazards, natural and/or man-made disasters while ensuring the use of a shared maritime heritage."

 

As a strategic member of the QUAD and being lined up for presidency of the G-20 grouping in 2023, India’s diplomatic engagement towards promoting ocean security in the regional and transglobal landscape is in conformity with the objectives of QUAD in its revamped role. For fulfilling the agenda of ensuring security and stability in the neighbourhood, the Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative (IPOI) propounded by New Delhi is widely acclaimed as a strategic masterstroke in emboldening reformed multilateral partnership with like-minded countries in the region. This was to be achieved by promoting regional geopolitical equilibrium and stability alongside addressing effectively new complex challenges and revitalising diplomatic efforts to enable infrastructure, connectivity, trade, and capacity enhancement, which will in turn propel shared economic progress and provide credibility to India’s role as a global power in the global geopolitical architecture.

India’s such initiatives, while perfectly synergising with the QUAD’s overall principle as “force for global good”, further makes the grouping a formidable geopolitical construct that has the power, ability, and political inclination to expand strategic collaboration across military, economic, commercial, and socio-cultural domains while showcasing New Delhi’s strength, credibility, and commitment to safeguard the security paradigm in the region. Importantly, India’s ascendance as a major Indo-Pacific power over the years is critical for the US and the QUAD alliance in dispensing the role as a force for global good, wherein IPOI is destined to be an integral component in the embedded geopolitical chessboard. Simultaneously, India’s consistent strategic engagement in emboldening multilateral cooperation in the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) conforming to the policy of SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) shows New Delhi’s potential as an effective first responder in preserving security in the greater Indian Ocean Region.

In the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, India’s constructive role in vaccine accessibility in the region has acted as a transformational humanitarian intervention in the QUAD vaccine initiative. Concurrently, the US’ recent announcement of the QUAD fellowship for students belonging to each of the four QUAD countries to pursue advanced degrees in STEM programmes further provides traction to the overall momentum of QUAD.

Against the backdrop of recent geopolitical competition, the enhanced all-inclusive role of the QUAD is envisaged to have a transformational effect as a “force for global good”. With several global powers inclusive of India and the US deliberating about the ardent need to ensure a free, open, and thriving Indo-Pacific in the context of China’s hegemonic behaviour in the region, the revamped role of the QUAD is going to be more effective in resolving the outstanding issues in the region. The transcendental effect of QUAD is expected to be reflected in a more dynamic manner since they are interlinked with the geostrategic, geoeconomics, humanitarian aspirations, needs, and requirements of nations in the Indo-Pacific region, while allowing for preserving peace, security, shared economic progress and international rules-based global governance.

Debasis Bhattacharya (ORF)
12 November 2021

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