India & QUAD: Weaknesses and Limitations in the Security Sector

Updated: May 26

Aman Kotecha,

Research Contributor,

Internationalism Research.


The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue popularly known as Quad can be described as a deliberate informal forum between Japan, Australia, the United States of America and India which is preserved by an exchange of information, military drills and semi-regular summits among member states. The Quad was initiated in 2007 as a dialogue by Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan with the support of Manmohan Singh the Prime Minister of India, Prime Minister of Australia John Howard and Dick Chimney the Vice President of the United States of America. The dialogue between member states was occasioned by joint military exercises and Exercise Malabar. The Quad was widely seen as a response to the growth of Chinese military strength and economic activities, which led to China issuing a formal diplomatic protest to member states.

After ten years, after its inactivity, Quad was resurrected in 2017 to support an Indo-Pacific region.[1] While the four-member states differ in their perception of threat, military power, the capacity to carry the cost of retaliation, constitutional imperatives and strategic culture, these differences somehow place weakness and limitation on Quad even though all countries have a common interest of maintaining a stable balance of power in the region.

All four member states of the Quad are in agreement that Chinese actions and policies create a threat to their common interest. However, member states differ in some respects, which is vital for practical cooperation among member states. One of the ways they differ in their perception of threat, which is a massive hindrance to the collective action of member states and a significant factor in limiting actions that can take together in defending their common interest when it is being threatened. This divergent perception of threat is as a result of several factors, most notable is the existence or absence of having a direct territorial dispute with the People’s Republic of China, what Beijing perceives as a potential risk of retaliation, the military and economic power of each state, which each of the member states possesses both individually and collectively should there be retaliation, other national priorities and a threat to each member state and most importantly the limitation of each member state and national strategic culture. While Australia, Japan and the U.S. have notable differences, with India looking to be a clear outlier.

From the middle 2012 till now, Japan has experienced a sustained challenge to its sovereignty from China over Senkaku Island, which China claims belongs to them. Since 2012 when the Japanese Government nationalized the Island, they have been subjected to direct challenges both by land and by sea from China. China maritime law enforcement vessels, fishing vessels, the maritime militia have frequently entered the territorial sea bordering the Island to challenge the Japanese coast guard vessels.[2]

In 2013, when China declared an Air-defence identification zone over a large portion of the East China sea, Japan was forced to defend its airspace from unauthorized entry by Chinese military craft. The increase in air and sea operation has posed a severe threat of overwhelming Japanese capabilities. Japan has responded to this threat by boosting its capabilities to act alone or together with other member states. Tokyo has put in place various measures to defend the Island and also deal with North Korea threats. Japan's current defence plan includes outlays for defence equipment and modernization of weapons, and Japan has upgraded two of its self-defence ships to be able to accommodate F-3513 stealth fighter jets.

The Abe led Government has committed a more proactive contribution to peace which involves the cabinet-level interpretation of Article 9 of pacifist constitution to allow the SDF to carry out collective security measure to aid security partners and allies and new policies to allow for the joint development of weapons, export arm, joint arms production to partner and allies. Japan has already succeeded in influencing both the Obama and Trump administration to affirm that Japanese defence falls within the purview of Article 5 of the U.S-Japan Mutual Treaty.

Japan has strongly advocated for a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, and this is the reason for Tokyo’s calculation of the cost and risk of Japan failing to respond to China assertiveness, before Shinzo Abe second term in power in 2012 he advocated for a democratic security diamond between the four-member state in the Indo Pacific linking of China territorial claim in the east and south China sea.[3]

Japan and India are the only Quad states that have a direct territorial dispute with China.[4] India is more vulnerable than Japan to Chinese retaliation. The area of dispute between India and China is the State of Arunachal Pradesh which China claims to be part of South Tibet.

The Indian Government has always reported that Chinese forces always crossed into Indian territory to carry out a test on the undermasted 3,488km line of Actual bordering both countries. From 1981, both countries have held 22 rounds of border demarcation meetings between both countries with little or no progress made in resolving the border issue. The recent conflict between both countries was a 73 days standoff in Doklam Plateau, a territory that is subject to dispute between China and Bhutan, which is close to the North-Eastern State of Sikkim in India. The standoff started when a Chinese platoon entered the plateau and was subsequently followed by a road construction crew and large Chinese military men. Bhutan beckoned on India to send troops to prevent China from carrying out their intended road construction. Indian main concern was to prevent the territorial gain which China would have in threatening the security of the narrow Siliguri corridor which joins India to its the North Eastern States. The refusal of India to back down in Doklam was as a result of their success in countering the salami-slicing tactics used by China India taking a strong stand makes New Delhi vulnerable to retaliation along the border if Quad decides to take on a military dimension. India shares the same common interest with other Quad member states, but unlike other members, India is less able to withstand the cost that it would incur if they become an active partner. This can be as a result of India’s internal weakness, a lack of an external alliance partner, proximate adversaries and a strategic culture which prevents the formation of a formal alliance, Since China’s PLA are capable of salami-slicing, New Delhi has used most of the available defence resources in countering the border threat as a result of which the Indian Navy has minimal projection capability in the South China Sea. Beyond that, their potential contribution to the maritime capabilities of QUAD in protecting its position in the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal as its primary place of operation would be a tough act. India's diffidence in agreeing to