Key initiatives of Quad Summit that position it as a counterweight to China
- These initiatives are the outcome of work done behind the scenes by Quad working groups to forge practical cooperation in crucial areas where China has so far had a dominant role
A new satellite-based initiative that will link naval facilities in India, Singapore and the South Pacific and allow Indo-Pacific countries to track illegal fishing and “dark shipping” is one of the most significant steps taken by the Quad since its revival in 2017.
The Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) was unveiled at the second in-person summit of leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad in Tokyo on Tuesday, along with a $50-billion plan to upgrade infrastructure across the Indo-Pacific over the next five years.
In the realm of cybersecurity, Quad leaders decided to improve the defence of critical infrastructure of their countries by sharing threat information and identifying risks in supply chains for digitally enabled products and services. They also agreed to advance interoperability and security through a new memorandum of cooperation on 5G supplier diversification and Open RAN, which enables mobile network operators to ensure inter-operability while using equipment from multiple vendors.
These initiatives appear clearly aimed at positioning the Quad, which groups India, Australia, Japan and the US, as a counterweight to China’s increasing influence and assertiveness in the region. Experts believe these initiatives are the outcome of considerable work done behind the scenes by Quad working groups in recent years to forge practical cooperation in crucial areas where China has so far had a dominant role.
The Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) will use data from commercial satellite operators to alert countries across the Indo-Pacific about illegal maritime activities, unauthorised fishing and other crimes. US officials have said this data will be shared via the India Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region, Singapore’s Information Fusion Centre, the Pacific Fusion Centre in Vanuatu and the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre in the Solomon Islands.
Quad decided to use data from commercial sources as it will be unclassified and can be shared with a wide range of partners.
China’s massive fishing fleet has been accused of illegal and overfishing across the Indo-Pacific. China has also faced accusations of using its government-funded maritime militias to operate in the South China Sea without clear identification, sometimes alongside the coast guard and navy. The IPMDA could play a key role in tracking such activities.
Quad partners provide more than $50 billion in assistance and investments to build infrastructure across the Indo-Pacific over the next five years. They will also strengthen the capacities of countries to cope with debt issues under the G20 Common Framework and by promoting debt sustainability and transparency. This move is being seen as a counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has been blamed for creating unsustainable projects and placing countries in a debt trap.
Quad members also decided to leverage their strengths to realise a “diverse and competitive market for semiconductors”. The Common Statement of Principles on Critical Technology Supply Chains, launched at Tuesday’s summit, will take forward cooperation on semiconductors and other critical technologies. The Quad will also advance cooperation in setting international standards for technologies through the new International Standards Cooperation Network (ISCN) and ensure technology development guided by shared democratic values.
All of these initiatives came against the backdrop of lingering differences among Quad partners over the situation in Ukraine, suggesting that the grouping has decided to move ahead with cooperative measures focused on the Indo-Pacific even as its members have been unable to reach common ground on the conflict in Europe triggered by the Russian invasion.
US President Joe Biden and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida highlighted the need to protect principles such as territorial integrity and sovereignty and to prevent a repeat of Ukraine in the Indo-Pacific in their opening remarks at the Quad Summit, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese did not mention the Ukraine conflict in their remarks.
The management of these differences will enable Quad to maintain its focus on bolstering its position as a grouping that can offer credible alternatives to countries of the Indo-Pacific.
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