November 16, 2017

The Indo-Pacific Quadrilateral Rises Again

Australia's rising naval power (epitomised by the 2 LHDs and 3 AWDs) is being paralleled by its participation in the strategic Quadrilateral concept. The other 3 Quadrilateral members are the powerful maritime nations, US, Japan and India.

The Quadrilateral's prime purpose is to contain China's strategic expansion in the relatively newly labelled region "Indo-Pacific" (see map below). Within the "Indo" (Indian Ocean) Chinese surface ship and submarine visits have risen sharply in the last 5 years. China has also established a naval base at Djibouti, Africa, facing the Indian Ocean.

Within the Pacific China is of course building militarised South China Sea islands and bilaterally courting or pressuring, some Southeast Asian nations (Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia and Malaysia). China may argue that this activity is all part of its oil-gas trade route One Belt One Road Initiative but the raw uncompromising militaristic flavour of China's advance demands containment by other Indo-Pacific countries.

The US, Japanese, Indian and Australian members of the Quadrilateral will most notably interact in naval exercises, but also quiet diplomatic meetings continue between them. 

If Trump had not dumped the TPP negotiations the Quadrilateral countries might have also formed a powerful economic grouping within the TPP. Instead the Chinese led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is proving successful while the TPP proposal collapses.

To make the Quadrilateral work Reality Twitter Trump needs to foster consistent US leadership.

As in 2007-2008 China may yet flex its economic muscles to break the Quadrilateral (the weakest link unfortunatly being Australia).

The Indo-Pacific Region, an expanse that well fits containment of China by Quadrilateral nations: Japan, India, Australia and the US.



Anonymous said...

I agree that the US Indo Pacific strategy needs to be consistent. The US is contradicting itself in asking for a multilateral strategic regional partnership while on trade it is saying no to regional multilateralism. Which one does the US want?
The strategy is only by name today and it is painfully obvious, while the One Belt, One Road is not. It needs to be flushed out and aligned among the four potential corners, US, Australia, India and Japan. A strategic regional initiative needs to be more than just fair and equitable trade, the economic dimension is only 1 dimension of any strategy.
One valid question to ask is whether Indonesia can be bypassed or ignored, after all it is the 2nd largest Democracy in the region. Besides, Indo Pacific to be fair was first mentioned by India and Indonesia a decade back although the intents may differ (whatever the US intent is). It will be wise for the US to give credits where they are due.

Peter Coates said...


Yes its early days for the Quadrilateral and all its political, strategic and economic aspects haven't been worked out.

For the Quadrilateral not to become yet another ineffectual ASEAN structure (if Indonesia were asked to join why not Malaysia and the Philippines?) the bar for naval power needs to be set high.

This is partly because China's tactics of bilaterally neutralising ASEAN countries has proven routinely effective.

Better that the participants are limited to those with regional navies that when unified have a hope of facing China's Navy.