Quadrilateral Security Dialogue

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Quadrilateral Security Dialogue
Australia, India, Japan, and the United States are highlighted in blue. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe intended for the Quadrilateral to establish an "Asian Arc of Democracy."
Established 2007-2008, 2017 (reestablished after negotiations in November)
Type Inter-governmental security forum

Member states:

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD, also known as the Quad) is an informal strategic dialogue between the United States, Japan, Australia and India that is maintained by talks between member countries. The dialogue was initiated in 2007 by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, with the support of Vice President Dick Cheney of the US, Prime Minister John Howard of Australia and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India. The dialogue was paralleled by joint military exercises of an unprecedented scale, titled Exercise Malabar. The diplomatic and military arrangement was widely viewed as a response to increased Chinese economic and military power, and the Chinese government responded to the Quadrilateral dialogue by issuing formal diplomatic protests to its members.

The QSD ceased following the withdrawal of Australia during Kevin Rudd’s tenure as prime minister, reflecting ambivalence in Australian policy over the growing tension between the United States and China in the Asia-Pacific. Following Rudd's replacement by Julia Gillard in 2010, enhanced military cooperation between the United States and Australia was resumed, leading to the placement of US Marines near Darwin, Australia, overlooking the Timor Sea and Lombok Strait. India, Japan, and the United States continue to hold joint naval exercises through Malabar.

However, during the 2017 ASEAN Summits all four former members rejoined in negotiations to revive the quadrilateral alliance. With Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and President Donald Trump of the United States agreeing in Manila to revive the security pact among tensions in the South China Sea caused primarily by China and its territorial ambitions.

The QSD is maintained by continuing security discussions among members, and may be formally resumed if Australia were to commit its naval forces to joint military exercises by other members.


Strategic framework of US-China conflict[edit]

In the early twenty-first century, the strategic preoccupation of the United States with Iraq and Afghanistan served as a distraction from major power shifts in the Asia-Pacific, brought about by increased Chinese economic power, which undermined America’s traditional role in the region.[1] In the long term the United States has sought a policy of "soft containment" of China by organizing strategic partnerships with democracies at its periphery.[1] While US alliances with Japan, Australia and India now form the bulwark of this policy, the development of closer US military ties to India has been a complex process since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Australian commentaries have shown mixed attitudes to a Quadrilateral security arrangement isolating China.[1]

India-US military cooperation[edit]

Pranab Mukherjee, who brought India into a new defense agreement with the United States in 2005.

Active US-Indian military cooperation expanded in 1991 following the economic liberalisation of India when American Lt. General Claude C. Kicklighter, then commander of the United States Army Pacific, proposed army-to-army cooperation.[2] This cooperation further expanded in the mid 1990s under an early Indian center-right coalition, and in 2001 India offered the United States military facilities within its territory for offensive operations in Afghanistan. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee signed a "New Framework for India-US Defense" in 2005 under the Indian United Progressive Alliance government, increasing cooperation regarding military relations, defense industry and technology sharing, and the establishment of a "Framework on maritime security cooperation."[2] India and the United States conducted dozens of joint military exercises in the ensuing years before the development of a Quadrilateral dialogue, interpreted as an effort to "contain" China.[2] Indian political commentator Brahma Chellaney referred to the emerging Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between the United States, Japan, Australia and India as part of a new "Great Game" in Asia, and Indian diplomat M. K. Rasgotra has maintained that American efforts to shape security pacts in Asia will result not in an "Asian Century," but rather in an "American Century in Asia."[3]

Controversy in India over China[edit]

Some, like US Lt. General Jeffrey B. Kohler, viewed US-India defense agreements as potentially lucrative for American defense industries and oversaw the subsequent sale of American military systems to India.[2] Nevertheless, some Indian commentators opposed increased American military cooperation with India, citing the American presence in Iraq, hostility to Iran and "attempts at encircling China" as fundamentally destabilizing to Asian peace, and objecting to the presence of American warships with nuclear capabilities off the coast of southern India, or to American calls for the permanent hosting of American naval vessels in Goa or Kochi.[3]

Creation of the Quadrilateral[edit]

Trilateral Security Dialogue (TSD)[edit]

The Trilateral Strategic Dialogue (TSD) is a series of trilateral meetings between the United States, Japan, and Australia. The TSD originally convened at senior officials level in 2002, then was upgraded to ministerial level in 2005. The United States expected regional allies to help facilitate evolving US global strategy to fight against a war on terrorism and nuclear proliferation. In return, Japan and Australia expected benefits including continued US strategic involvement and the maintenance of strategic guarantees in the region.[4]

The concept of a "Democratic Peace"[edit]

In early 2007, Prime Minister Abe proposed the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or "Quadrilateral Initiative", under which India would join a formal multilateral dialogue with Japan, the United States and Australia.[5]

The initiation of an American, Japanese, Australian and Indian defense arrangement, modeled on the concept of a Democratic Peace, has been credited to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.[6] The Quadrilateral was supposed to establish an "Asian Arc of Democracy," envisioned to ultimately include countries in central Asia, Mongolia, the Korean peninsula, and other countries in Southeast Asia: "virtually all the countries on China’s periphery, except for China itself." This has led some critics, such as former US State Department official Morton Abramowitz, to call the project "an anti-Chinese move,"[7] while others have called it a "democratic challenge" to the projected Chinese century, mounted by Asian powers in coordination with the United States. While China has traditionally favored the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Quadrilateral was viewed as an "Asian NATO;" Daniel Twining of the German Marshall Fund of the United States has written that the arrangement "could lead to military conflict," or could instead "lay an enduring foundation for peace" if China becomes a democratic leader in Asia.[8]

Formal initiation isolates China[edit]

Naval vessels from the United States, Japan, India, Australia and Singapore take part in multilateral exercises in the Bay of Bengal in 2007.

China sent diplomatic protests to all four members of the Quadrilateral before any formal convention of its members.[9] In May 2007 in Manila, Australian Prime Minister John Howard participated with other members in the inaugural meeting of the Quadrilateral at Cheney’s urging, one month after joint naval exercises near Tokyo by India, Japan and the United States. In September 2007 further naval exercises were held in the Bay of Bengal, including Australia.[6] These were followed in October by a further security agreement between Japan and India, ratified during a visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Tokyo, to promote sea lane safety and defense collaboration; Japan had previously established such an agreement only with Australia.[6]

Though the Quadrilateral initiative of the Bush Administration improved relationships with New Delhi, it gave the impression of "encircling" China.[10] The security agreement between Japan and India furthermore made China conspicuous as absent on the list of Japan's strategic partners in Asia.[11] These moves appeared to "institutionally alienate" China, the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean), and promote a "Washington-centric" ring of alliances in Asia.[10][11]

The Japanese Prime Minister succeeding Abe, Taro Aso, downplayed the importance of China in Japan-India pact signed following the creation of the Quadrilateral, stating, "There was mention of China – and we do not have any assumption of a third country as a target such as China." Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon similarly argued that the defense agreement was long overdue because of Indian freight trade with Japan, and did not specifically target China.[12] On the cusp of visits to China and meetings with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao in January 2008, the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, declared that "India is not part of any so-called contain China effort," after being asked about the Quadrilateral.[13]

Rudd's departure[edit]

In 2008 Kevin Rudd terminated the quadrilateral, signaling closer relations with China.

Fears over Chinese military spending and missile capacities had helped drive Australia towards a defense agreement with the United States, as outlined by the 2007 Canberra Defense Blueprint; Sandy Gordon of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute had recommended the sale of uranium to India on the basis of similar considerations, as it appeared that the United States was backing it as a "counter to a rising China."[14] Chinese anger over the Quadrilateral however caused uneasiness within Australia even before the agreements were initiated.[15]

Following his nomination as Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd visited China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, before visiting Japan, and subsequently organized a meeting between Yang and the Australian foreign minister, Stephen Smith, in which Australia unilaterally announced its departure from the Quadrilateral.[16] Within Australia, this decision was seen as motivated by the uncertainty of China-United States relations and by the fact that Australia’s principle economic partner, China, was not its principle strategic partner.[17] Rudd may furthermore have feared regional escalations in conflict and attempted to diffuse these via an "Asia-Pacific Union."[16]

Some US strategic thinkers criticized Rudd’s decision to leave Quadrilateral; the former Asia director of the United States National Security Council, Mike Green, said that Rudd had withdrawn in an effort to please China, which had exerted substantial diplomatic effort to achieve that aim.[18] A December 2008 cable authored by US ambassador Robert McCallum and published by WikiLeaks reveals that Rudd did not consult United States before leaving the Quadrilateral.[19]

The Indian province of Arunachal Pradesh, a region contested between India and China.

US President Obama's efforts in November 2009 to improve US–Indian relations raised alarms in India and Australia both that a deepening military alliance between these powers could lead to regional escalations.[20] According to analyst John Lee, "For realists ... New Delhi has been warily balancing and competing against Beijing from the very moment of India's creation in 1947;" significant tensions between China and India were associated with the disputed Indian province of Arunachal Pradesh, and with Chinese nuclear weapons stationed on the Tibetan Plateau.[20] Rudd's calculation may have been that as a regional economic power, China was too important to contain through a simplistic Quadrilateral Initiative undertaken by US, India, Japan and Australia in 2007, when many regional powers are hedging their alliances in the event of an American and Japanese decline.[20]

Obama Administration and Gillard's return[edit]

Australian support[edit]

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard with US Ambassador Jeff Bleich in June 2010.

Rudd's replacement as Australian prime minister by Julia Gillard in June 2010 was associated with a shift in Australian foreign policy towards a closer relationship to the United States and a distancing from China.[21] The Australian, which has written extensively on the Quadrilateral and on Australian defense issues, argued after Rudd’s replacement that "Australia's national interest is best served by continuing to engage and encourage our long-standing ally, the US, to retain its primacy in the region."[21] Despite Gillard's rapprochement with the US and increased US-Australian military cooperation, Rudd's decision to leave the Quadrilateral remained an object of criticism from Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party.[22]

US Marines in northern Australia[edit]

Australia’s decision not to sell uranium to India had weakened Quadrilateral alliances,[23] a move also criticized by the Liberal Party; the Party has however backed Gillard's support for a US military presence near Darwin, overlooking the Timor Sea and the Lombok Strait.[24] With support from the United States, Gillard and the Labor party have since reversed policy and backed the sale of uranium to India, which has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.[25] On 5 September 2014 Australian Prime minister Tonny Abott agreed to sell Uranium to India.

Trump Administration[edit]

Japanese, Indian, Australian and American officials met to continue security cooperation ahead of the ASEAN and East Asia Summits in November 2017.[26] The meeting included discussion of China's increased prominence in the South China Sea, and may have signaled U.S. president Trump's interest in reviving a formal Quadrilateral.[27]


According to the American think tank Center for a New American Security, CNAS, the United States pursued a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue in an effort to adapt to an increasingly economically powerful China in the Asia-Pacific, where great power rivalry, massive military investment, social inequality, and contemporary territorial disputes have all made war in Asia "plausible."[1] According to the CNAS, establishing a series of alliances among nations recognized as democratic by the United States furthers its own interests: "It is precisely because of the rise of Chinese power and the longer term trend towards multipolarity in the international system that values can and should serve as a tool of American statecraft today."[1]

Prominent U.S. politicians from both Democratic and Republican parties have advocated a more aggressive diplomacy in Asia. During the 2008 US presidential campaign, President Obama called for a new worldwide concert of democracies to counter the influence of Russia and China in the UN Security Council; key officials of Obama's administration were involved in the Princeton Project, whose final report called for the construction of a new ‘concert of democracies.’[28] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Policy Planning Director at the State Department, Anne-Marie Slaughter, authored the Princeton Project’s final report, which "called for reconstituting the quadrilateral military partnership among the United States, Japan, Australia and India." John McCain also called for a "league of democracies," and Rudy Giuliani for incorporating Asia’s militarily capable democracies into NATO.[28] The development of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue took place in the context of Chinese military modernization, geared towards contingency in Taiwan Strait but also towards "force projection capabilities." Some US officials view Chinese assertiveness in South China Sea as demonstrated by the naval confrontation between the USNS Impeccable and Chinese naval vessels near Hainan Island.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Campbell, K. M., Patel, N. and V. J. Singh, 2008. "The Power of Balance: America in iAsia". Center for a New American Security’’.
  2. ^ a b c d Kumaraswami, Sridhar, "India, US Defence cooperation 'set to escalate.'" The Asian Age, 9 September 2007. Reprinted by the BBC monitoring South Asia.
  3. ^ a b Varadarajan, Siddharth, "US seeks India’s help to create 'century of America in Asia'", The Hindu, 5 July 2007.
  4. ^ Tow, William (2008). "Assessing the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue". NBR Special Report. 16.
  5. ^ Brewster, David(2010). "The Australia-India Security Declaration: The Quadrilateral Redux?". ANU.
  6. ^ a b c Chellaney, Brahma. "Different playbooks aimed at balancing Asia’s powers". The Japan Times, 3 November 2008 (originally published by the BBC Monitoring South Asia).
  7. ^ Ching, Frank. "Asian Arc of Democracy" Archived 10 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine. Korea Times, 24 February 2008.
  8. ^ Twining, Daniel. "The new Asian order’s challenge to China". Financial Times, 26 September 2007.
  9. ^ Nicholson, Brendan. "China warns Canberra on security pact". The Age, 15 June 2007.
  10. ^ a b Lee, John, "Bush legacy: Better US-India relations." The Straits Times (Singapore), 8 October 2009.
  11. ^ a b Editorial: "China left out in India-Japan pact". The Business Times Singapore, 28 October 2008.
  12. ^ Varadarajan, Siddharth. "Indian PM stresses economic, security ties with Japan not at cost of China." The Hindu (via BBC Monitoring South Asia), 23 October 2008.
  13. ^ "PM says India not part of “so called contain China” effort" The Hindu, 11 January 2008.
  14. ^ McLennan, David, "Uranium sales to India will improve relations: think tank." Canberra Times, 1 June 2007.
  15. ^ Marsh, Virginia, "Warning on Beijing’s arms spending". Financial Times, 6 July 2007.
  16. ^ a b Gordon, Josh, "Diabolical dilemmas in PM’s China high-wire act". Sunday Age, 5 April 2009.
  17. ^ Lee, John, "PM May Trump Rudd in Managing China". The Australian, 17 August 2011.
  18. ^ Sheridan, Greg, "Asia fears Rudd's China fixation", The Australian, 3 May 2008.
  19. ^ Callick, Rowan, "Rudd Revelations are Old News". The Australian, 9 December 2010.
  20. ^ a b c Lee, John, "For once, it's better to end with a whimper." The Straits Times (Singapore), 25 November 2009.
  21. ^ a b Frydenberg, Josh, "Washington is integral to our region". The Australian, 21 September 2010.
  22. ^ Sheridan, Greg, "Popular reflections finding no favour in Beijing". The Australian, 18 November 2011.
  23. ^ Mattoo, Amitabh, "Time to invest in Indian partnership". The Australian, 17 August 2011.
  24. ^ Sheridan, Greg, "Come on down: Abbott would welcome US". The Australian, 3 September 2011.
  25. ^ Choudhury, Uttara "India can thank Uncle Sam for Julia Gillard's uranium bacflip". Firstpost.com: India, 16 November 2011.
  26. ^ "Quadrilateral security dialogue: India, Australia, Japan, US hold talks on Indo-Pacific cooperation". Times of India. 12 November 2017. Retrieved 16 November 2017. 
  27. ^ Wyeth, Grant (16 November 2017). "Why Has Australia Shifted Back to the Quad?". The Diplomat. Retrieved 16 November 2017. 
  28. ^ a b c Brooks, L., Busby, J. W., Denmark, A. M., Ford, L., Green, M. J., Ikenberry, G. J., Kaplan, R. D., Patel, N., Twining, D., and R. Weitz, 2009. "China’s Arrival: A Strategic Framework for a Global Relationship". Eds. Abraham Denmark and Nirav Patel, Center for a New American Security.

External links[edit]