Decoding the Minilateral Heterogeneity of QUAD and the 'China Factor'

Updated: May 26

Nikita Mulay,

Junior Research Analyst,

Internationalism Research.

Parul Chaturvedi,

Research Intern,

Internationalism Research.


India and the US initiated the Malabar exercises in 1992, but the frequency of the exercises reduced due to the United State’s disapproval with regards to the nuclear tests conducted by India in 1998. However, the bilateral exercises restored regularity after the year 2004. The scope of the bilateral agreement has extended over the years, in the year 2007, Japan, Australia and Singapore were also included. In the same year India, Japan, United States and Australia held security talks known as ‘Quadrilateral Security Dialogue’ (‘Quad’). 'Quad' represents a political partnership between the United States, Japan, Australia and India. To no surprise, China was not satisfied with this alliance. Beijing protested calling ‘Quad’ an anti-China coalition.

In light of the pandemic, the global position is against China but it remains unaffected, China is furthering the harm caused due to the pandemic and has been rising border conflicts. In addition to this, China is using its ‘debt trap policy’ as a ploy for Chinese expansionism endangering the stability in the Indo-Pacific region. This article aims to analyse the role of 'Quad' and whether it will play a major role in securing the Indo-Pacific region against Chinese expansionism and its importance to south-east ASEAN Nations.

Impact of Quad

The point of deliberation here is the Impact of Quad on the policies of the countries. Shortly after the formation of Quad 1.0, Australia withdrew from its membership because of its relationship with China (anti-Quad) which resulted in the decline of Quad1.0. Australia kept reassuring China about their disinterest in Quadrilateral Security Dialogue’ (‘Quad’). This is probably why Quad 1.0 was unsuccessful. The 'China factor' was crucial to Quad 1.0 failure to take off only a decade later appears to serve as the pivot from which the minilateralism of Quad 2.0 is attempting a rejuvenation. Quad 2.0 has met biannually at a senior official level since 2017 and was subsequently upgraded to the ministerial level in 2019. Quad 2.0 aims to maintain regional maritime stability by ensuring a Free and Open Indo-Pacific under the norms of the rules-based global order. Indo-Pacific region faced increasing security challenges, the Quad states have also heightened their congruency in foreign policy. Security issues including terrorism, cyber and maritime arenas have consistently been amongst the priority in the agendas of their meetings.

Quad 2.0 has emphasised on the continued importance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in maintaining regional maritime stability. This implies that the mini-lateral partnership does not intend to undermine or supersede the functions of the multilateral ASEAN. This is probably why ‘Quad’ 2.0 has come into being despite Beijing’s disapproval. Countries are becoming increasingly aware of their economic interdependence on the Chinese economy- manufacturing industries. Quad 2.0 has emphasized the continued importance of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the maintenance of regional maritime sector stability. This is extremely important due to the unrest in the Indo-Pacific region.

Quad functions to enhance interoperability, reinforce intelligence and recognition skills, and monitoring skills continue to be central in all military cooperation, its members should cooperate actively to develop the economic, technical and military skills of each other to counter China.

Agenda’s for Quad 2.0 Meetings are as follows

The agendas for the Quad meetings held between 2017-2020:

  • North Korea's Denuclearisation, Free and Open Indo-Pacific, Rules Defense.

  • The security of rules based on order, the disturbance of China in the Indo-Pacific region.