The Quad (US, Japan, India, Australia Security Dialogue) : Updates and Discussions


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

US supercarrier Nimitz to join Vikramaditya for QUAD Malabar exercise off Goa coast​

ndian Navy’s flagship Vikramaditya and US supercarrier Nimitz along with two destroyers of the Australian and Japanese navies will conduct full-spectrum exercises off the coast of Goa as part of Malabar war games from November 17 to 20.

The two carrier groups, with MiG-29K fighters on board Vikramaditya and F-18 fighters on board Nimitz, will participate in war games, while the involvement of the two other countries, which are, like India and the US, members of the Quad grouping, will strengthen multi-operability in full domain exercises. It is also expected to help all four countries understand the ethos and level of training of each other’s navies, commanders and personnel.

The exercise will take place in quite a congested environment with at least 70 foreign warships patrolling the area between the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s warships are not in the vicinity but are not too far off either -- ostensibly conducting anti-pirate operations off the Gulf of Aden.

According to top naval commanders, the Indian Navy is fully deployed on both the eastern as well as the western seaboard and prepared for contingencies in case the situation takes a turn for the worse in East Ladakh region. Analysts say it is clear that the Quad members are committed to keep the sea lanes of communication open for navigation and are ready to meet the challenge brought upon by PLA Navy by imposing constraints in South China Sea.

With the Indian Navy expected to commission indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant along with its second nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, INS Arighat, by next year, India will be able to project power from Malacca Straits to Gulf of Aden and beyond, the analysts added.

Under navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh, the focus of the force has also been on rapidly developing military infrastructure in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands so that India can project power well beyond the Malacca Straits. The navy is also keen on building a third aircraft carrier so that it turns into truly blue water navy.

While there is an intensive debate among national security planners over the viability of a third aircraft carrier in an age when so-called standoff weapons and long range ballistic missiles are the order of the day, the navy’s argument is that a rising power like India cannot be tethered to the shore-line. This argument makes sense, say analysts, as China’s influence in Africa, Middle-East and Persian Gulf under the Belt Road Initiative has grown with Beijing leveraging its debt-hold on these countries.

With China reaching the Indian Ocean through Pakistan and Myanmar, the navy wants Indian maritime and commercial interests to be protected by three aircraft carriers, one each of Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. The counter argument made by the national security planners is that India should simply turn some of its 1,062 island territories into permanent military bases to influence events in the region.

With the US, India, Australia and Japan communicating through deployed assets, liaison officers in each other’s naval commands, and Indian Ocean Monitoring Centres, the Quad, the analysts added, is definitely a force to reckon with in Indo-Pacific with situational awareness of both West Asia and Africa.
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Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

Quad Can’t Stop China’s Rise​

The foreign ministers of the United States, Japan, India and Australia met in Tokyo in early October and decided to allow Australia to join the November Malabar exercises. A quadrilateral alliance — now known as the Quad — an Asian version of NATO, took shape. It signals an extremely dangerous new threat to the prosperity and stability in the entire Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. But the Quad will not be able to prevent China’s rise.

The idea of the Quad and an Asian NATO was at the core of the Obama administration’s so-called Pivot to Asia strategy. The Donald Trump administration has gone to great lengths to bring the vision to reality by taking China-containment actions to a new level. It has proved once again the continuity of the policy, which neither Republicans nor the Democrats are likely to change for at least another decade or so.

The China-containment policy is based on a grand strategy developed over several decades and is theoretically indefinite and permanent. The strategy involves political, military, economic, diplomatic, propaganda and other activities, with maneuvers in the military field always given priority.

Under the most recent U.S. military doctrine, the world order militarily has already changed from a U.S.- Soviet bipolar configuration to a unipolar one dominated by the U.S. since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. In such a new, unipolar world order, the U.S. sees itself as the only state with sovereignty and entitled to use military force. All other countries, including America’s allies in Europe and elsewhere, can be seen simply as repositories of natural and human resources.

The U.S. should pursue the higher goal of controlling its own resources, rather than engaging in the simplistic plundering of other countries for economic benefit. The American economy may have no need for some vital resources, such as energy or technology, but the U.S. has set itself up as the arbiter to decide who may use these and who will be deprived. The core mission of the U.S. military is to serve this strategic goal.

The U.S. does not allow Iran, Syria and Venezuela to export oil, or Venezuela to use its gold reserves in Britain, or countries around the world to use Chinese 5G equipment or the Netherlands to export lithographic machines to China, or Russia to build natural gas pipelines to Europe, or Germany to use Russian natural gas. These unilateral diplomatic actions are backed up by the American military doctrine.

The country’s foreign policy and military strategy are closely linked and aligned toward the same goal, which is controlling resources. The U.S. envisions that other countries will join new coalitions it has formed and abide by the rules it has laid down to access the resources and technologies needed to sustain their basic economic operations.

The U.S. refuses to recognize multi-polarization as a historical trend in the world or to accept a reality in which it no longer has an absolutely dominant position. It is still obsessed with American primacy and exceptionalism. It continues to besiege Russia, Iran, the DPRK, Venezuela and other countries and regards China as the primary threat — one that requires comprehensive containment. These policies and practices run counter to global trends and have brought the entire world into a new era of systemic complexity.

The Quad was formed to target China. However, as it sucks Japan, India and Australia directly into the U.S vortex in service of American strategic intentions, new tensions and anxieties have been created for the entire Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

The U.S. has actually placed the other three countries in a disadvantageous position. Basically, the American strategy is to let its allies confront China and bear the cost of doing so. Under U.S. pressure, Japan, India and Australia have all recently acquired weapons systems from the U.S. that they don’t really need. Through military cooperation, the U.S. has further strengthened its political control over the other three. Ultimately, they will find that they are depriving themselves of the benefits that accompany China’s rise.

China is the world’s only country with full-fledged industrial and manufacturing capacity, as well as a huge population and market, well-established infrastructure, fast and efficient logistics and a strong attraction to international capital. To pursue further development at home and common development around the world, China proposes to build a community with a shared future for mankind — including through the Belt and Road Initiative — and has received a positive response from most countries.

In terms of strategic depth, the geographical space of China, Russia, Central Asia and Iran is on the whole the world’s safest today, with unlimited room for maneuver. China has a defensive military doctrine and sound military assets capable of delivering heavy blows to any invading enemy.

The rise of China is a historical process, which must begin at home, unfold in its external exchanges and be presented on the world stage. The U.S. containment policy will not stop the engagement of China, which has confidence that it will win the protracted struggle.


Team StratFront
Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

Australia spends $500,000 to strengthen tech ties with Quad allies amid China tension​

Australia will spend $500,000 setting up a tech network among the “Quad” democracies – Australia, the United States, Japan and India – against the backdrop of worsening tensions with China.

The move signals an increased focus on cybersecurity and sensitive technology issues – such as protecting 5G networks and ensuring artificial intelligence is not misused – in a regional grouping viewed warily by Beijing.

With Australia’s foreign affairs and trade department due to release a strategy on emerging cyber and tech challenges before the end of the year, it is encouraging academics to work together on research papers that add to public debate.

Dfat has revealed it is providing the Australian National University with $497,000 to set up a “Quad tech network”.
A newly published notice on the government’s grant website said the network would “support research and promote engagement with academic and thinktank partners on cyber and critical technology issues that reflect Australia’s interests as a liberal democracy committed to the international rules-based order”.

Australia, the US, Japan and India have been stepping up their cooperation through the Quad, formally known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, with foreign affairs ministers meeting in Tokyo last month for what are expected to become regular talks.

Although Australia maintains it is a diplomatic forum, Beijing fears it could become a Nato-style regional alliance to counter China.

Those fears were heightened earlier this month when Australia rejoined the Malabar naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea alongside counterparts from India, Japan and the US.

But the new tech-focused network shows the cooperation extends beyond government-to-government levels to include universities and thinktanks.

The ANU’s national security college will work on the project with the Observer Research Foundation in India, the Center for a New American Security and Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.

Dfat said the Quad tech network would put forward recommendations “relevant to Australia’s national interests across the breadth of cyber affairs and critical technology issues” while publishing four research papers of between 10,000 and 15,000 words each.

The ANU is expected to organise 12 video teleconference calls between Dfat and the project partners.
One partner, the Observer Research Foundation, hosted a technology conference at which the Australian foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, called on likeminded countries to work together to build “a digital Indo-Pacific that is free, open and trusted”.

In a speech delivered remotely shortly after her return from the Quad meeting in Tokyo, Payne said Australia’s national security, economy and society was “increasingly digitised, dependent on access to open, trusted technology markets” but there were “some worrying trends globally”.

“Emerging applications of technologies, such as the use of artificial intelligence for facial recognition, are increasingly used to oppress, rather than empower, citizens,” she said, without naming who was acting in this way.

“Our response must involve adapting to technological change in a transparent way, while enforcing the rule of law, promoting individual human rights and deterring malicious activity.”

Dfat is putting the finishing touches on a new cyber and critical technology international engagement strategy which will cover how government can work with industry, civil society and academia to advance those interests internationally.

The document is also expected to examine which technological developments present the greatest risks or opportunities for Australia and the Indo-Pacific.

In a submission to Dfat’s strategy planning process, the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre argued the implementation of 5G networks would “have a profound influence on geopolitics moving forward because a threat anywhere in the network will be a threat to the whole network”.

The Chinese tech giant Huawei used its submission to Dfat to call on Australia to adhere to the principle of “openness and transparency” and explore solutions “based on facts with international stakeholders”.

The then Turnbull government’s decision to block “high-risk vendors” such as Huawei and another Chinese telecom, ZTE, from the 5G network in 2018 continues to be a source of friction in the diplomatic relationship with Beijing.

It was among 14 items on a list of disputes with Australia that the Chinese embassy in Canberra provided to Nine News early last week.

The embassy said the 2018 ban was based on “unfounded national security concerns” and Australia was “doing the bidding of the US by lobbying other countries” to adopt similar measures.

It also accused Australia of making “thinly veiled allegations against China on cyber attacks without any evidence”.
Scott Morrison, the prime minister, said in June that a wide range of political and private-sector organisations in Australia were being targeted by a “sophisticated state-based cyber-actor”, but he did not name the country.

A Chinese embassy official told Guardian Australia on Friday that problems in the relationship were “all caused by the Australian side” and Canberra should stop treating China as a strategic threat if it wanted to resume ministerial level talks that have been frozen since early this year.

The Australian trade minister, Simon Birmingham, insisted on Sunday that “the ball is in China’s court” for engaging in high-level dialogue to resolve the tensions, but he argued the Chinese embassy had taken a number of unhelpful actions this year.


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

U.S. Air Force F/A-18s and Indian MiG-29s Are Wargaming (China Is Why)​

Last week during the joint Malabar exercises in the Indian Ocean, MiG-29Ks of the Indian Navy and F-18s of the U.S. Navy carried out simulated attacks on a surface force during multilateral naval exercises. The MiG-29s operated from the Indian Navy’s INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier and coordinated firing on surface targets during Phase-2 of the Malabar 2020 exercises.

“The exercises conducted during MALABAR provided opportunities to enhance our interoperability and strengthens our maritime partnerships with India, Australia, and Japan,” said Capt. Elaine Collins, commander, Destroyer Squadron 9. “Our ability to replenish ships at sea, conduct live firing exercises and communicate with one another, ship-to-ship, demonstrates our cooperation and shared goals of fostering security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”

The U.S. Navy’s Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (CSG-11) took part in the Phase-2 operations to further strengthen the integration of its naval air forces through air and air defense exercises. It allowed U.S. aviators to work alongside those of the Indian Navy.

“MiG 29K’s of the IN and the F-18 of the U.S. Navy flew along with the IN’s maritime patrol aircraft P-8I and the USN AEW aircraft E2C Hawkeye in seamless coordination,” said the Indian Navy in a statement, reported by the Economic Times of India.

The second phase of the Malabar exercises also included a photo exercise, night operations, air defense exercises, helicopter cross-deck evolutions, carrier landing approaches, underway replenishment approaches, gunnery exercises, and antisubmarine warfare exercises.

“Operating with Australia, India, and Japan via cross-deck landings, carrier landing approaches and aerial refueling during Malabar has been instrumental in enhancing the compatibility of our naval air forces,” said Capt. Todd Cimicata, commander, Carrier Air Wing 17. “We are honored by the professionalism of our partners, and look forward to flying together again as we reinforce our mutual desire to improve maritime security in the global commons.”

This year marked the twenty-fourth iteration of annual exercise, which began in 1992. It started as a training exercise between the United States and India and over the years other nations have taken part. Japan joined the annual event in 2015 and Australia, which had last participated in 2007, rejoined this year. It was the latest in a series of exercises that have grown in scope and complexity in recent years to address the variety of shared threats to maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, where the U.S. Navy has had a significant role for more than seventy years promoting regional peace and security.

“Malabar is an important opportunity to demonstrate the strength of our strategic partnerships in a high-end exercise,” said Rear Adm. Jim Kirk, commander of CSG-11. “The Nimitz Strike Group team is grateful to join our Australian, Indian and Japanese partners and increase our readiness and interoperability.”

CSG-11 is currently deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. It had been operating in the waters of the north Arabian Sea for training, and recently rounded the Strait of Hormuz to join the exercises. As the U.S. Navy’s largest numbered fleet, the U.S. 7th Fleet interacts with thirty-five other maritime nations to build partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability, and prevent conflict.
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Senior member
Dec 3, 2017
Indonesia hedging on the US and the Quad
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to visit Jakarta tomorrow to meet with his Indonesian counterpart, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. With an itinerary including stops in India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, it’s clear that the goal of the visit is to persuade Indonesia to align itself more closely to the US-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue in confronting security threats from China.

The US has been pulling out all stops to try to persuade Indonesia; witness its willingness to overlook Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto’s history of human rights controversies in granting him a visa for a recent visit after more than 20 years in the cold.

From the Indonesian perspective, however, there are several problems with this goal.

First, Indonesia has steadfastly maintained a position of neutrality, fearing it might be dragged into conflicts that it doesn’t want. An independent and active foreign policy, which eschews formal military alliances, is a fundamental part of Indonesia’s strategic culture. Thus, Indonesia flatly rejected a recent US request to host spy planes on the grounds that it would be against Indonesia’s historic position of neutrality, which saw it become one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement. Any deviation from these principles would be bound to cause domestic uproar, something President Joko Widodo can ill afford as he battles to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and resuscitate the economy.

While the Quad bills itself as a dialogue, it is slowly evolving into a mechanism for military cooperation against the perceived threat from China. Even as elements in Indonesian society and the military are willing to consider support for the Quad in the future, at this point the consensus is one of wait and see, and the outcome will depend significantly on whether China increases its aggressiveness in the South China Sea.

Second, Indonesia has growing economic and investment links with China that could be jeopardised by closer alignment with the US. China’s trade boycotts against Australia in response to Canberra’s firm stance on suspected foreign interference and its call for an investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic have been duly noted in Jakarta. While it maintains a huge trade deficit with China, Indonesia can’t afford to pick a fight with Beijing because it needs Chinese investment, especially in infrastructure and heavy industry, to jump-start the economy.

Finally, and most importantly, there’s a question mark over whether the US can be relied upon to continue its favourable approach towards Indonesia. Indonesian military officers are generally apprehensive about the idea of a US president from the Democratic Party, believing that a Democratic administration would put more emphasis on human rights, and be more prepared to intervene in Indonesia’s domestic affairs, in contrast to a business-like Republican Party.

They do not forget that it was the Clinton administration that pressured Indonesia to leave East Timor and imposed a military embargo that wrecked Indonesia’s armament program for years. It was the Republican Bush administration that finally lifted the embargo. To be sure, President Barrack Obama, a Democrat, is seen positively in Indonesia due to his brief childhood connection to the country and his efforts to forge a stronger bilateral relationship as part of his Asia ‘pivot’. But Indonesia’s military didn’t miss the fact that the Arab Spring happened on Obama’s watch, in which they saw the hidden hand of the US meddling in the domestic affairs of Arab states on the pretext of concern for human rights.

In fact, Indonesia’s defence white paper specifically notes that the ‘Arab Spring, political and security upheaval in Egypt, [and] civil wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria’ are examples of major powers waging proxy wars. Not surprisingly, several high-ranking military officers I spoke to said they are hoping President Donald Trump will beat Joe Biden in the 3 November presidential election because that would mean the US would continue to act favourably towards the Indonesian military. A Biden victory might jeopardise that, putting the spotlight back on the question of human rights, especially human rights in the provinces of Papua and West Papua, which remains a touchy issue for Indonesia.

All this will force Indonesia to maintain its hedging game, welcoming the Trump administration’s outreach, but remaining wary of any abrupt change in US policy that might be detrimental to Indonesia’s interest.

It seems very likely that Biden, should he defeat Trump, would want to continue his predecessor’s outreach to Indonesia, considering that there is very strong bipartisan support in the US on the need to take a hard line towards China. Indonesia, of course, will deal with whomever the American people chose to elect. But should Biden wish to court Indonesia’s support, he would need to deal with some historic legacies that have left many here doubtful about the durability of US friendship.


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

China must prepare for US new QUAD schemes​

When US former president Barack Obama was still in office, the US began to intensify its strategy in the Asia-Pacific region. US President Donald Trump has upgraded that layout into so-called Indo-Pacific Strategy. Most recently, due to the presidential elections, the Trump administration has emphasized the so-called QUAD mechanism of the US, Japan, India, and Australia. As this trend of seeking increased influence in the Asia Pacific will not change, President-elect Joe Biden is likely to continue it by selling old wine in new bottles - carrying on some of the current administration's policies to neutralize China.

Whereas China is the main competitor of the US, as Biden said, the Biden administration will need a variety of measures to contain the Asian country. These will likely include enhancing military alliances, as well as ties between the US and its allies to maintain the US' hegemony in military and other spheres in the Asia-Pacific region. This is why the US is striving to establish the QUAD mechanism right now.

It is not important whether or not the QUAD will be a formal alliance, but the vision of forging such an alliance is. Because it shows the US' devotion to building a multilateral military mechanism.

If the QUAD is officially established in the Asia Pacific, its targets may include countries like North Korea, Iran, and Russia, in addition to China. It would be an all-round alliance focusing on the vital role of Indo-Pacific region. Nonetheless, the four QUAD countries are sleeping in the same bed, but with different dreams. They are taking advantage of the QUAD for their own ends. Therefore, it is quite hard for the four to make a NATO-styled group with a complete alliance mechanism.

In term of US overseas troops, Biden has a different stance from Trump. Trump hopes to change the nature of the US global military presence to make American troops stationed overseas earn America direct dividends. Trump does not want to deploy US soldiers in other countries for free. By contrast, Biden will consolidate ties with allies, and not shake them down for money. His policies will be similar to those as were carried out during Obama's tenure. Even if some countries might have to share more costs for hosting US troops, the financial increase will not be sharply higher. Since the Biden administration seeks to keep US hegemony across the globe, it will have to figure out a feasible way to maintain its alliances.

The US has been working on that with two hands. On one hand, it attempts to build an Indo-Pacific military alliance. While on the other, it seeks to expand NATO to the east until it is right on China's doorstep. The QUAD is actually a move to turn bilateral military alliances between the US and other countries into a quadrilateral one. Except for US-India ties, America already has military alliances with both Australia and Japan. The US is now making the QUAD into an Asia-Pacific multilateral alliance.

Both Trump and Biden are representing the interests of American elite groups. Containing China, as well as Russia, is in line with those groups' doctrines. So the US will not budge regarding its strategy to suppress any potential threat in the Asia Pacific. Biden is no exception.

Against this backdrop, what should China do? It ought to maintain strategic determination and continue to work hard in accordance with its own development projection. We should also be more prepared for military struggles.

In terms of core issues such as sovereignty, security and development interests, China must not make even the slightest compromise. When necessary, Beijing should use military abilities to defend its essential national interests, including the Taiwan question, South China Sea issue, and other rights to develop overseas.

On the other hand, China needs to further improve friendship with neighboring countries in the Asia Pacific, realizing win-win norms and also blocking the US' aims for nefarious collusions. Take Japan and India, for instance. Tokyo is actually sitting on the fence: It worries that being a spearhead of Washington to contain Beijing will backfire. India needs to properly manage disputes and crises with China. Indeed, New Delhi doesn't want Washington to be involved in its affairs with Beijing.

Besides, China should also attach more importance to countries such as South Korea, New Zealand, and ASEAN members, so as to prevent the US' attempt from forging new military alliances. We need to make more efforts in terms of comprehensive national strength, technology, and many other spheres in order to make the US know it is impossible to contain China and thus shrink back from creating more difficulties. We should make Washington remember this deeply. Furthermore, it is also very important that we take comprehensive diplomatic measures to dissolve US attempts to forge new military alliances aiming at us.


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

The Quad’s Malabar Exercises Point the Way to an Asian NATO​

Last week, the four Indo-Pacific Quad countries—India, Japan, Australia, and the United States—completed a series of joint naval exercises in the Indian Ocean. The Malabar exercises began in the Bay of Bengal with routine air-sea drills involving destroyers, frigates, and helicopters. The second phase, held off the Malabar coast in the Arabian Sea, brought in the big ships: the Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and the supercarrier USS Nimitz. It was a rare opportunity for U.S. F-18s to train alongside India’s Russian-built MiG-29Ks under the direction of the U.S. Navy’s E-2 Hawkeye surveillance aircraft.

Both the Quad itself—a loose relationship more formally known as the U.S.-Australia-India-Japan Consultations—and the Malabar exercises linking its four members have been touted (and dismissed) as an “Asian NATO.” Some of the impetus for the idea that the Quad could turn into a full-fledged military alliance came from U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who pointed out that “even NATO started with relatively modest expectations” when it was founded in 1949. But a better way to imagine a path forward for the Quad is to compare it to NATO today. Most people regard NATO as a hard military alliance, but no one seriously expects Russian tanks to sweep into Germany and France—and NATO’s Eastern European members are certainly not waiting for Iceland and Portugal to rise to their defense.

In reality, today’s NATO is primarily a training and standards-setting organization, with a military alliance tacked on for show. Its own website lists its first purpose as political (“NATO promotes democratic values”) and only its second as military (“NATO is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes”). NATO maintains programs on arms control, human trafficking, gender diversity, energy security, and the environment. Those are all issues the Quad can and should be tackling. As for NATO’s harder edge, exercises like Malabar can be extended to embrace NATO missions like counterterrorism, cybersecurity, and ballistic missile defense.

About the only thing NATO does that doesn’t make sense for the future of Malabar and the Quad is the forward deployment of multinational battlegroups. There are four of these battalion-sized formations in Eastern Europe, totaling just 4,500 troops as of 2017. That’s smaller than the crew of a single U.S. supercarrier. India alone has 10 times that number facing China on the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, where hostilities briefly broke out in May. It would be laughable to suggest that India wants or needs a multinational Quad battalion to reinforce its positions on the Chinese border.

Nearly every country in the region must deal with China’s salami-slicing tactics to degrade target countries’ maritime sovereignty.

What India does need (and want) is greater air-sea training collaboration with the United States and its allies. In addition to this year’s Malabar exercises involving its three Quad partners, India conducts regular bilateral exercises with Japan and the United States. India also holds regular annual exercises with France and has initiated naval cooperation talks with the European Union. India has purchased Boeing P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft from the United States and Dassault Rafale air superiority jets from France, and it has to learn how make them work together with its existing armory of Russian jets and anti-aircraft missiles. All of that takes practice.

Looking beyond India, other countries in the region would also benefit from working with an Asian NATO that is primarily a training and standards-setting organization, not an armed defense force. Vietnam, for example, would never contemplate joining a U.S.-sponsored military alliance, but it engages in naval training exercises with both India and Japan, in addition to the United States. South Korea has historically had difficulty engaging in bilateral security cooperation with Japan, but it might be easier for the country to participate in a broader regional grouping. And Taiwan’s special status prevents it from joining most treaty organizations, but that needn’t prevent it from participating in civilian programs covering NATO-type topics like human trafficking and cybersecurity.

A more muscular Quad might also sponsor deeper naval cooperation through the creation of a kind of permanent Malabar. There is a perpetual need for search-and-rescue, anti-piracy, and maritime security patrols in the Indian Ocean and the waters of Southeast Asia. Nearly every country in the region must also deal with China’s salami-slicing tactics to degrade target countries’ maritime sovereignty, often relying on irregular forces such as fishing fleets. Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite has actually suggested the reactivation of a U.S. First Fleet to be based in the area. But with Trump’s 350-ship Navy plan unlikely to be endorsed by President-elect Joe Biden, there is little chance that the ships required for such a fleet would be available—even if a country could be found to host the force.

The naval strategist James Fanell has suggested a provocative alternative: The Quad countries and their prospective partners could establish a standing multinational naval force operating on a rotational basis. In contrast to NATO, the individual units of this force would not be integrated; each country would operate its own ships. But they would work together to pursue common maritime security missions, gaining valuable interoperability experience along the way.

An initially more modest Asian NATO might start with a budget of less than $1 billion.

If Biden’s designated secretary of state nominee, Antony Blinken, is looking for a mission for the Quad, then using it to build an Asian NATO might be just the thing. And it wouldn’t take tremendous resources. Contrary to popular perceptions, NATO itself is not a particularly large organization. Its permanent headquarters employs approximately 500 military and 1,000 civilian staff. A total of 6,000 civilians work in “different agencies and strategic and regional commands”—NATO-speak for “on projects.” NATO’s annual military and civilian budgets combined total less than $2.2 billion.

An initially more modest Asian NATO might start with a budget of less than $1 billion, a small secretariat based in Japan or Australia, and naval-only forces committed on a purely rotational basis. It would send a strong message to China without being explicitly directed against it. Like Malabar and other regional exercises, its purpose would be to raise professional standards and improve interoperability, not to oppose any particular enemy. Of course, by enhancing the readiness of the region’s naval and air forces, this more muscular Quad would better prepare them to confront China—or any other opponent—should the need arise. But like today’s NATO, the group’s core missions would be largely peaceful, not confrontational.


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

The Trans-Himalayan ‘Quad,’ Beijing’s Territorialism, and India​

Connectivity linkages between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and trans-Himalayan countries have taken on a new hue with the recent Himalayan ‘Quadrilateral’ meeting between China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal (MOFA (PRC), July 27). Often referred to as a “handshake across the Himalayas,” China’s outreach in the region has been characterized by ‘comprehensive’ security agreements, infrastructure-oriented aid, enhanced focus on trade, public-private partnerships, and more recently, increased economic and security cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] The geopolitics underlying China’s regional development initiatives, often connected with its crown jewel foreign policy project Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), have been highly concerning—not just for the countries involved, but also for neighboring middle powers like India, which have significant stakes in the region.[2]

At the Himalayan Quad meeting, foreign ministers from all four countries deliberated on the need to enhance the BRI in the region through a “Health Silk Road”. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary and PRC President Xi Jinping’s ‘Community of a Shared Future for Humanity’ was cited as justification for facilitating a “common future with closely entwined interests,” and the ministers agreed to work towards enhancing connectivity initiatives to ensuring a steady flow of trade and transport corridors in the region and building multilateralism in the World Health Organization (WHO) to promote a “global community of health” (Xinhua, July 28).

Connectivity linkages between China and the trans-Himalayan region have been significant for China’s foreign policy, economic and security strategies. For China, the region’s utility extends beyond its officially envisaged “win-win” cooperation (MOFA (PRC), April 10, 2018); China’s proactive desire to engage the trans-Himalayan region has much to do with its goals to exert economic leverage, consolidate normative power and extend its political and strategic influence regionally, lending stronger support for its notions of global governance.[3] In this context, trans-Himalayan connectivity initiatives under the banner of the BRI serve an important role in the creation of a Sino-centric regional order. Consequently, the prevalent geopolitics of the region, including India’s policies, are a crucial consideration in the progression of China’s grand infrastructural ambitions (SIIS, May 5, 2017).

Beijing’s economic corridors undermine the historic trans-Himalayan balance of power
Recent years have shown that China is determined to ramp up political, economic, quasi-military and people-to-people exchanges in the region as part of its trans-Himalayan outlook. New Chinese-funded economic corridors such as the Chinese-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Trans-Himalayan Connectivity Network (THCM) will not just impact trade, but also have crucial effects on the strategic, social and political landscapes of the host countries that they pass through. The geopolitical implications of China’s increasing regional activities are enormous.[4] Indeed, it could be argued that China’s regional policy has been developed through repeated “invisible incursions” using “religion, ideas, language and culture” to undermine past regional partnerships and reinforce China’s growing cultural and social power in the region (Hudson Institute, October 31, 2017).

China’s economic influence is already strongly felt in Bangladesh and Nepal, which have traditionally fallen under India’s sphere of influence (China Daily, July 5, 2019; CGTN, November 27, 2017). As Beijing seeks closer ties to the smaller South Asian countries, it threatens India’s historic dominance in the region. The situation is expected to worsen if India-China relations continue to decline and hostilities between the two countries continue along the border. The CPEC—which passes through the contested Himalayan border region of Gilgit-Baltistan—is being built mainly by China with the support of both Pakistan and Afghanistan, further undermining India’s influence and raising tensions in the region (Global Times, December 26, 2017; Global Times, August 23).

Closer Sino-Afghan and Sino-Nepali ties fueled by infrastructure diplomacy
China has been interested in adding Afghanistan to its grand infrastructure initiative as early as 2014, and since 2017 it has held a series of trilateral talks with Afghanistan and Pakistan aimed at expanding the CPEC and BRI-related investments in Afghanistan (Dawn, September 8, 2019; MOFA (PRC), July 7). China and Afghanistan have signed agreements to connect the two countries in northern Afghanistan via the Sino-Afghanistan Special Railway Transportation Project and Five Nations Railway Project in 2016, and have also set in motion initiatives connecting CPEC to southern Afghanistan which went into effect earlier this year (Freidrich Ebert Stiftung, August 2018; Xinhua, July 14). China has also invested in the Afghanistan Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT)’s Wakhan Corridor Fiber Optic Survey Project; the first phase of this plan to create cross-border fiber linkages connecting Afghanistan and China was launched earlier this year (Tolo News, April 23, 2017; Business Wire, May 15).

China’s renewed thrust on trans-Himalayan connectivity extends to Nepal as well. For example, China and Nepal held talks on expediting the Trans-Himalayan Multi-dimensional Connectivity Network (THMCN), a railway line which will link Kathmandu with Gyirong, a town in the south of China’s Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), during President Xi’s visit to Nepal last October (Global Times, October 12, 2019). The THMCN will pave the way for more profound integration between China and the rest of South Asia, solidify border controls and aid in the economic development and integration of China’s TAR. The infrastructure initiative will pass near Lumbini, which is close to the Indian border, and has raised concerns from Indian strategists (VOA, October 16, 2019).

Image: A Lanzhou-Kathmandu freight train takes its inaugural trip in 2018. China and Nepal inked plans to build a cross-border railway a year earlier Image source: Xinhua).

Since formally becoming a member of the BRI in 2017, Nepal has signed multiple comprehensive agreements facilitating transboundary connectivity with China (MOFA (China), October 13, 2019; IDSA, November 4, 2019). Further integration is being pushed, and the high-level importance given to Sino-Nepalese ties was demonstrated by an essay that Xi Jinping published in three major Nepali newspapers last year. Xi’s article underscored the necessity for China and Nepal to ‘deepen strategic communication’, ‘broaden practical cooperation’, ‘expand people-to-people exchanges’ and ‘enhance security cooperation’ (Xinhua, October 11, 2019). Landlocked Nepal has traditionally relied on India for trade and transit routes. Now, China’s infrastructure diplomacy has promised growth and development, while also providing Nepal with alternative trading routes that ameliorate its reliance on India (Aljazeera, July 29). For China, not only is Nepal’s location geo-economically significant, but its large population of Tibetan residents also plays a crucial role in its importance for China (The Wire (India), October 4, 2019). For the sake of its internal security, China cannot afford to let countries such as the U.S. or India pull Nepal away, and is constantly wary of other nations “waving the Tibet card” (China Brief, September 28).

It is important when evaluating the BRI’s infrastructure projects in South Asia to contextualize it among China’s broader foreign policy narratives. President Xi has repeatedly expressed interest in advancing China’s “peripheral diplomacy” (外围外交, waiwei waijiao) and “good neighbor diplomacy” (睦邻外交, mulin waijiao) (Embassy of the PRC in Grenada, March 19, 2019; People’s Daily, January 5, 2015), complementing trans-Himalayan connectivity policies like CPEC and THMCN. China’s charm offensive—coupled with its massive economic weight—appears to be working. In contrast, India has struggled to manage its ‘Neighborhood Policy’, and has been particularly unsuccessful in demarcating its boundaries with China (MEA (India), July 14, 2017). India-driven connectivity developments have so far been limited due to unsettled boundary issues with Pakistan and Nepal in Kalapani and Susta, respectively.

Pakistan and China’s growing isolationism
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to anti-China rhetoric worldwide. With countries like Japan actively moving manufacturing out of Beijing and China-Australia ties reaching an “all time low”, China is finding its international goodwill rapidly depleted (Nikkei Asia Review, April 16; Global Times, June 25; Pew Research, October 6). Ongoing technology and trade tensions with the U.S.; continued human rights abuses in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang; renewed tensions in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea; and negative military and diplomatic posturing with India post-Galwan have further hurt China’s reputation in 2020.

Against this backdrop, China’s push for CPEC must be analyzed in the context of China-Pakistan relations. Beijing has declared its desire to exhibit a “new model of state-to-state relations” between the two countries (Embassy of the PRC in Pakistan, April 10, 2018). Relations between China and Pakistan have always been relatively warm, with Pakistan often siding with China on a variety of matters against India. The India-China-Pakistan trilateral relationship has been marred by a convoluted history of unresolved border disputes and recurrent military confrontations at the India-China Line of Actual Control (LAC) and at the India-Pakistan Line of Control (LOC). Beijing responded poorly to India’s abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, which defined Ladakh as a separate Union Territory last year, and this year, China has renewed its diplomatic and military aggressions in the border region (MOFA (PRC), August 6, 2019; China Brief, July 15). Amid worsening Sino-Indian tensions, the CPEC has been a platform for China to exert influence in the trans-Himalayan region. India’s policy changes last year only served to impede—but not halt—China’s growing regional power. When fully realized, the CPEC will cement China-Pakistan economic relations, further unbalancing the complicated security dynamics of the India-China-Pakistan triangle.

Even though China has tried to couch its ‘Himalayan Quad’ initiative in the framework of infrastructure diplomacy and development, it is impossible not to view the initiative through a security prism. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, China has proposed a four-point action plan for its three Himalayan South Asian friends, offering support through economic, medical and infrastructural aid (Global Times, July 28). The degree to which such aid could diplomatically compromise these countries is yet to be seen, but early missteps in China’s so-called mask diplomacy elsewhere have bluntly demonstrated the strings that are so often attached to its foreign policy initiatives (SCMP, March 28).

China’s investments in trans-Himalayan connectivity have a clear geostrategic and security rationale. It is worth noting that many of the large-scale road projects in the Himalayas seem to be catered towards troop movement in addition to facilitating local transportation. Even the hydropower constructions that the BRI has funded, which are an integral part of the trans-Himalayan power corridors, can be seen as a trademark tool of China’s territorialism and ‘state-making’ (Asia Times, October 4, 2019).[5]

China is seeking to combine economic cooperation with geopolitical gains in the trans-Himalayan region through multiple new assemblages and pathways. The fluid and open-ended nature of the BRI projects have been easily repackaged in China’s post-pandemic diplomacy. In such a scenario, it is imperative for India to abandon its languid foreign policy approach, exercise more pre-emptive authority and delineate its agenda well, not only to secure its border territories but also exude more confidence as a strong middle power in the Indo-Pacific.


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

Germany Lends Support To Quad Against China; Will Send Warships To The Indian Ocean Next Year​

With an eye on China, Germany has decided to patrol the Indian Ocean by deploying a warship in the Indo-Pacific under Berlin’s plan to manage China’s influence in the region.

“We believe that Germany needs to mark its position in the region,” Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the German Defence Minister, said in an interview with The Sunday Morning Herald. She added that Europe is now increasingly taking note of China’s “economic agenda” and “geopolitical tactics”.

“We hope to be able to deploy next year,” she said. “We will be spending more on defense in 2021 than in 2020 despite the fact that [coronavirus] has hit our budgets. Now the key is to translate this into real muscle.”

She further acknowledged China as “an important trading partner” for Germany with “strong economic ties” benefitting both sides.

File:Angela Merkel (2020-01-11).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Angela Merkel – Wikimedia Commons

“At the same time, we do not turn a blind eye on unequal investment conditions, aggressive appropriation of intellectual property, state-subsidized distortion of competition or attempts to exert influence by means of loans and investments,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

She is also the first German minister to confirm publicly that restrictions on Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei would effectively exclude the company from Germany’s 5G network, said The Sunday Morning Herald report.
Germany is, in principle, open to investment from all sides. But if the technology offered to us is not beyond reproach, it cannot be used,” she said. “The political ramifications would simply be too grave. China is a country that understands very well the political dimension of IT networks and data flows. I am sure our counterparts in Beijing understand that we Europeans can only operate technology we trust.”

Kramp-Karrenbauer revealed that Germany is working within NATO to expand relations with like-minded states such as Australia in the Indo-Pacific. “I am convinced territorial disputes, violations of international law and China’s ambitions for global supremacy can only be approached multilaterally.”

China is Germany’s biggest trading partner and this is the first time that Berlin has openly spoken about its concerns with China.


Well-Known member
Feb 6, 2020

Germany Lends Support To Quad Against China; Will Send Warships To The Indian Ocean Next Year​

With an eye on China, Germany has decided to patrol the Indian Ocean by deploying a warship in the Indo-Pacific under Berlin’s plan to manage China’s influence in the region.

“We believe that Germany needs to mark its position in the region,” Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the German Defence Minister, said in an interview with The Sunday Morning Herald. She added that Europe is now increasingly taking note of China’s “economic agenda” and “geopolitical tactics”.

“We hope to be able to deploy next year,” she said. “We will be spending more on defense in 2021 than in 2020 despite the fact that [coronavirus] has hit our budgets. Now the key is to translate this into real muscle.”

She further acknowledged China as “an important trading partner” for Germany with “strong economic ties” benefitting both sides.

File:Angela Merkel (2020-01-11).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Angela Merkel – Wikimedia Commons

“At the same time, we do not turn a blind eye on unequal investment conditions, aggressive appropriation of intellectual property, state-subsidized distortion of competition or attempts to exert influence by means of loans and investments,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

She is also the first German minister to confirm publicly that restrictions on Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei would effectively exclude the company from Germany’s 5G network, said The Sunday Morning Herald report.
Germany is, in principle, open to investment from all sides. But if the technology offered to us is not beyond reproach, it cannot be used,” she said. “The political ramifications would simply be too grave. China is a country that understands very well the political dimension of IT networks and data flows. I am sure our counterparts in Beijing understand that we Europeans can only operate technology we trust.”

Kramp-Karrenbauer revealed that Germany is working within NATO to expand relations with like-minded states such as Australia in the Indo-Pacific. “I am convinced territorial disputes, violations of international law and China’s ambitions for global supremacy can only be approached multilaterally.”

China is Germany’s biggest trading partner and this is the first time that Berlin has openly spoken about its concerns with China.
They should focus on selling us weapons. We don't want useless Germans with their pathetic navy being a hindrance..


Senior member
Dec 3, 2017

India and the Quadrilateral Forum as a Means of US Deterrence in the Indo-Pacific​

In the Indo-Pacific, China is waging a well-orchestrated campaign to displace US hegemony and secure a favorable balance of power. Driven by ardent nationalistic goals, the Chinese Communist Party is silencing political outliers and challenging the boundaries of international sovereignty. The first half of this article outlines Chinese political ambitions and domestic civil rights violations levied in pursuit of the government’s agenda. It then addresses how Chinese territorialism in the South China Sea has undermined the utility of bilateral US strategic partnerships. The second half of the article describes the threat China poses to India’s national security and why the Indian Air Force is particularly unprepared to meet this challenge. The article concludes by suggesting a quadrilateral treaty alliance between the United States, India, Japan, and Australia is needed to prevent further Chinese adventurism and preserve regional stability.

China’s Two Centenaries

In 2012, Pres. Xi Jinping assumed control of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and began a series of initiatives to improve his country’s welfare. His “China Dream” program stresses nationalism, individual ethics, and two landmark goals known as the Two Centenaries. The First Centenary Goal is to double the 2010 per capita income figures by 2021, the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The Second Centenary Goal is more ambiguous. It describes a “strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious, and modern socialist country” by 2049, marking the 100-year anniversary of the PRC.1

The national unification strategy girding this ambition has translated into attacks on ethnic minorities and oppression of political dissenters. In June 2020, the Associated Press reported on China’s draconian measures to curb its Uighur population in the northwest autonomous region of Xinjiang. From 2015 to 2018, childbirths in the Muslim-dominated prefectures of Hotan and Kashgar declined 60 percent following state-mandated sterilizations and abortions backed by the threat of mass incarceration.2 A 2017 CCP memo leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists contained detailed descriptions of the harsh practices inside “reeducation camps,” where millions of Uighurs are being held without trial.3 However, despite the damning evidence of cultural genocide, the international community has remained markedly silent.4

Two thousand miles to the east, in Hong Kong, the CCP has summarily put an end to antigovernment demonstrations, which have plagued the party since mid-2019. The protests emerged after Beijing announced plans to enforce criminal extradition to mainland China, where the courts are widely viewed as corrupt. On 30 June 2020, Beijing passed a new national security law, effectively ending Hong Kong’s legal autonomy under the One Country, Two Systems provision of the British handover in 1997.5 The bill criminalizes secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and collusion with foreign entities, each carrying up to a life sentence. It also establishes a national security committee with extraterritorial authority, allowing the CCP to prosecute foreign nationals and media correspondents.6

Plight of Taiwan

The sweeping language and jurisdiction of the national security law heightened concerns in Taiwan, where the CCP has accused Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-Wen of leading a separatist plot and threatened military action.7 During the week of 9–16 June, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force violated Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) three separate times. The ostensible reminders of Beijing’s ability to act with impunity immediately preceded President Tsai’s video speech to the Copenhagen Democracy Summit on 19 June, less than two weeks before the law took effect.8

Although the immediate risk of military escalation with Taiwan remains low, Chinese general Li Zuocheng, Chief of the Joint Staff Department, considers it a viable option. In May 2020, Li told Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, “if the possibility for peaceful reunification is lost, the people’s armed forces will, with the whole nation, including the people of Taiwan, take all necessary steps to resolutely smash any separatist plots or actions.” The general’s comments were underscored by Li Zhanshu, head of China’s Parliament, who added, “we warn Taiwan’s pro-independence and separatist forces sternly, the path of Taiwan independence leads to a dead end; any challenge to this law will be severely punished.”9

The plight of Taiwan is problematic because its status as an independent state is ambiguous according to the international law of statehood.10 Only 15 countries, mostly from South America and the Caribbean, have formal diplomatic ties with Taipei, which consequently isolates those countries from Beijing.11 Taiwan has been self-governing since Japan relinquished control in 1952, but the United Nations and even the United States, whose credibility in the Indo-Pacific is strongly connected to Taiwan’s democratic status, have not officially recognized its government. Furthermore, it is difficult to assess how far Washington would go to protect the small island nation from annexation. Taiwan’s tangible value to the United States is relatively low. In 2018, trade between the two countries amounted to 94.5 billion USD, compared to 737.1 billion USD with mainland China.12 Taiwan is strategically significant amid other disputes with China in the South China Sea, but the cost of US military intervention would be exorbitant in both dollars and lives. Victory would depend on dubious support from US allies and the rapid consolidation of disjointed treaties.

Current US Partnerships in the Indo-Pacific

The NATO alliance kept the Soviet Union at bay during the Cold War largely because Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty states, “an attack on one is an attack on all.”13 NATO’s framers perceived that the only way to contain Soviet expansion was by bringing the full weight of the enterprise to bear through unambiguous mutual defense. Like Europe, Asia is mainly composed of small, vulnerable countries and a few main power brokers. However, there is no overarching pact between US partners. Instead, there exists a complex network of bilateral agreements with narrow preconditions. The applicability of these arrangements to third parties is largely open to interpretation.14

The United States has five major strategic partners and seven subsidiary partners in the Indo-Pacific. Treaties bind the United States to Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand.15 Various other strategic partnerships exist with India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, and most recently Mongolia.16 While the details of each agreement are beyond the scope of this article, the overlapping, albeit incongruent challenges each country faces with respect to China suggest a more comprehensive security plan is needed.


Australia has sided with the United States in every major conflict since World War I. As a member of the Five Eyes intelligence network, composed of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, Australia contributes heavily to the US intelligence network and is strategically located between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, along key maritime routes leading to the South China Sea. Most importantly, Australia’s military capability continues to grow. Since Pres. Barack Obama reaffirmed America’s commitment in a 2011 speech to the Australian Parliament, the Aussies have responded in kind by raising defense spending to two percent of gross domestic product.17 This includes the purchase of F-35s and plans to acquire 12 new submarines with US combat systems.18

Alternatively, the 1951 Australia, New Zealand and United States Security Treaty (ANZUS) constitutes a political trap. Aside from the obvious military danger, China has been Australia’s premier trading partner for the past decade and accounts for more than 32 percent of its exports.19 Deep political and military ties with the United States make it a belligerent in almost every case, extending throughout the Indo-Pacific and thousands of miles above the earth. In the opening salvo of a Taiwan war game in 2010, simulated Chinese actors took down the Australia–US joint satellite architecture. The indirect attack incapacitated radar and communications networks, enabling China to take Taiwan virtually unopposed. The hypothetical outcome was a fait accompli sealed by a lack of commitment from other US partners. Despite the historic animosity with mainland China that has made Taiwan a classic case study, other territorial disputes with China have emerged that raise similar concerns and reinforce the vainness of a bilateral response. 20

Japan and South Korea

In 1947, Chinese cartographers drew a dash-line map, which self-ascribed ownership of the South China Sea and its islands based on historic fishing territory. Though the map has undergone several revisions, it remains highly contentious as a legal justification for Chinese sovereignty.21 Japan has administered the Senkaku Islands between Okinawa and Taiwan since 1972. However, in 2013, China extended its ADIZ over the Senkaku Islands, demanding control of the islands by virtue of inherent right.22 In August 2016, China dispatched 230 fishing vessels escorted by seven coast guard ships to the islands, where it had already deployed paramilitary forces to substantiate its propriety.23 Chinese government ships continue to antagonize the Japanese Coast Guard. In 2020, encounters near the Senkaku Islands occurred for 67 straight days beginning in mid-April, fueling concerns that the United States may be forced to fulfill its mutual defense treaty. The 1960 agreement provides explicit protection in exchange for military basing rights.24

Maritime encounters are not the only risk. Emboldened by rapid advances in aircraft and cruise missile technology, China is also increasing air patrols over the Sea of Japan, exploiting political gaps between Japan and other US allies. On 23 June 2019, two Chinese H-6 bombers, accompanied by two Russian Tu-95 bombers and a Russian A-50 surveillance aircraft, conducted a combined operation through the overlapping ADIZ between Japan and South Korea. South Korean fighters responded by firing 360 warning shots at the Russian A-50, while tactfully avoiding the Chinese bombers.25

This unilateral decision highlighted the difficult relationship between the two US allies, which dates back to the seventh century and involves multiple Japanese invasions, Korean annexation, and the use of Korean forced labor in World War II. The Korean Supreme Court’s 2018 demand for reparations, combined with the A-50 incident, almost caused Japan and Korea to terminate their intelligence-sharing agreement in late 2019, abandoning the decision only after US intervention.26 The problem goes deeper for the United States. Like most Asian countries, South Korea is bound to China by hundreds of billions of dollars in economic investment. Seoul also relies on Beijing to curb North Korean attacks like the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan and the artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong in 2010. Invariably caught between US and Chinese agendas, South Korea has been mostly ambivalent about Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea.27


The South China Sea contains an estimated 11 billion barrels of untapped oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, along with rich fisheries. It is also a major economic thoroughfare for approximately 3.3 trillion USD in annual commerce. The South China Sea’s importance as a trade conduit and its bounty of natural resources have caused international competition for centuries, but the contest has gained increasing attention since the 1970s.28 One of the most frequently disputed areas is a sparse chain of small rocks and reef structure known as the Spratly Islands. The Spratlys are scattered across 158,000 square miles of open ocean and account for just two square miles of total land mass, situated equally between China, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, and the Philippines.29

China’s reliance on fisheries near the Spratly Islands as an alternative to its own heavily polluted coastal waters is especially concerning for the Philippines. There are 100–150 fishing boats working every reef China controls, permanently destroying large swaths of coral and fish habitat. By comparison, the Great Barrier Reef averages less than half a boat per reef.30 Chinese fishermen and warships also routinely disregard Philippine sovereignty. In 2011, a vessel self-identified as “Chinese Warship 560” fired warning shots at three Philippine fishing boats operating 60 miles inside their own exclusive economic zone, forcing one to cut its anchor to flee.31 Then, after a tense naval standoff spanning most of 2012, China seized de facto control of the Philippines’ Scarborough Shoal, 200 miles northwest of Manila.32 As a result, the Philippines appealed to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in 2013, arguing that China’s actions had violated the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.33

The PCA tribunal ruled in the Philippines’ favor in 2016. Five judges determined that because the Spratly Islands cannot independently support human communities or economic activity, they cannot have their own exclusive economic zones.34 They also invalidated China’s dash-line map and admonished China for harvesting endangered sea life and destroying fragile marine ecosystems inside of Philippine maritime boundaries. China vehemently denied the court’s legitimacy and used the three years preceding the injunction to expand its artificial island campaign, fortifying its military foothold.35

China has dredged and deposited enough sand in the Spratly Islands for thousands of acres of manmade territory. One of their most alarming accomplishments was the Fiery Cross Reef project, where Chinese engineers constructed a 10,000-foot runway on an island previously consisting of shallow coral. The robust substructure can support mobile missile launchers and almost any type of military aircraft.36 It also conveniently extends China’s radio coverage and combat radius to the contested Scarborough Shoal.37 Though China maintains the runway was built to support search-and-rescue operations, most military strategists are unconvinced.38 The addition of naval ports to Fiery Cross will enable surface vessels and submarines to exert total control over the South China Sea.39 As China’s military strength grows, Beijing is also compelling other countries to rethink their relationships with the United States as a source of protection, including US treaty partners.40


The US treaty with Thailand dates back to 1833. During the Cold War, Thailand served as an important democratic hedge against the communist wave in Southeast Asia, prompting the United States to extensively train and equip the Thai military. This bond continued into 1982, when the United States and Thailand began cosponsoring one of the longest-running international military exercises: Cobra Gold.41 Today the exercise includes 27 other countries and focuses on military cooperation during disaster relief operations.42 Thailand’s longstanding relationship with the United States led to its designation as a “major non-NATO ally” in 2003 and the creation of a Thai–US Defense Alliance in 2012.43 Despite these seemingly impressive accolades, political turmoil and growing Chinese influence cast doubt on the alliance’s ultimate dependability.

Military coups in 2006 and 2014 deposed elected officials and dissolved the Thai constitution.44 The ensuing junta’s systemic corruption drove away foreign investment, resulting in a 57-percent drop between 2010 and 2019.45 Despite the 8.4 billion USD loss in revenue, including 4.7 million USD in suspended US assistance, the Royal Thai Military’s budget surged eight percent year after year.46 As the United States withdrew support, citing concerns over human rights, China stepped into the void.47 A 1 billion USD contract for three Yuan-class submarines granted China access to Thailand’s Sattahip Naval Yard, where US Navy ships now contend with Chinese intelligence gathering.48 The Sino–Thai partnership has continued to expand, and today Thailand conducts more bilateral military exercises with China than any other country.49 Despite general elections in 2019 that officially restored civilian rule and a new Joint Vision Statement with the United States in 2020, Thailand’s reliance on China is undoubtedly growing at the United States’ expense.50

India’s Need for the United States

The United States’ present security arrangements in the Indo-Pacific require deep US commitments that are increasingly difficult to fulfill against the rise of China. Forcing China to heed basic international boundaries, much less address internal civil rights abuses, will require a more robust military and economic alliance. Owing to this need and its standing as the world’s largest democracy, India is central to any plans for restructuring US security strategy in the Indo-Pacific. With 1.2 billion people and a 67 billion USD defense budget, India must play a prominent role if unsanctioned Chinese expansion is to be stopped. New Delhi remains averse to such political entanglements, but India is in an equally difficult position with China and is unlikely to succeed on its own. One of India’s problems is its lack of a modern air force to defend airspace along its contested borders with China and Pakistan. US defense contractors are uniquely suited to provide this capability but require cooperation from the Indian government, which has resisted thus far. However, as India’s complex border situation evolves, it could provide impetus for a treaty partnership with the United States and other like-minded partners.

New Delhi came to the forefront of US diplomacy in 1998 following India’s successful nuclear tests. By refusing to sign the Non-Proliferation and Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaties, New Delhi solidified its position of strategic nonalignment, which had successfully kept it out of the Cold War.51 Since then, four US presidents have worked to change India’s stance with overtures from Washington, beginning in earnest under President Obama.52 As part of his rebalancing effort to shift US strategic focus away from the Middle East and toward East Asia, Obama met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi several times, beginning in 2014. Before leaving office, Obama officially recognized India as a “major defense partner,” a title the Trump administration has repeatedly upheld.53 Then, in 2018, Secretary of Defense James Mattis notably changed the name of US Pacific Command to US Indo-Pacific Command amid deteriorating Sino–Indian relations.54

Disputed Borders

The disputed India–China border made news on 15 June 2020, when 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a firefight with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Union Territory of Ladakh. A spokesman for India’s foreign ministry cited China’s failure to abide by government agreements, while Beijing blamed the killings on illegal incursions by Indian troops. Chinese and Indian border patrols have faced off in the past, even engaging in fistfights, but this confrontation marked the first case of fatalities since 1967, five years after the Sino–Indian War. While this seemed like an isolated tragedy, India’s contested borders are part of a much larger contextual issue that involves both China and India’s historic rival, Pakistan.55

Four hundred miles southwest of Ladakh, the Indian military is still heavily engaged in Kashmir. This ethnically diverse Himalayan region has been divided along a cease-fire line called the Line of Control (LOC) since the Indo–Pakistani War of 1947–1948. Kashmir is a persistent hotbed of terrorist activity, as Islamic militants continue fighting for unification of the Muslim-dominated region, seeking to have it under Pakistani rule.56 India says it killed 127 terrorists in the first half of 2020 alone, and despite calls for cooperation, relations between New Delhi and Islamabad are decidedly strained.57 On the same day as the firefight in Ladakh, Indian forces fought a 15-hour gun battle in Kashmir, killing two terrorists and seizing weapons and explosives stockpiles. The increased tension is partially attributable to India’s recent decision to revoke Article 370 of its constitution and deploy thousands of additional troops to the LOC. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government, which ascribes to a pro-Hindu and nationalist agenda, issued the pronouncement in August 2019, withdrawing Kashmir’s autonomous status following a deadly series of cross-border attacks earlier that year.58

Indian Air Force Setbacks

On 14 February 2019, the Islamic militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) car bombed an Indian police convoy, killing 40. India responded on 26 February by launching Mirage 2000s to strike what Indian media sources described as terrorist training camps. India claimed the mission killed 350 militants, but Pakistani officials stated that four bombs had landed in an empty field. When reporters arrived on scene, local villagers also denied any casualties but pointed to several empty bomb craters one mile east of a JeM-run madrassa. The presumed target, which had long since been abandoned, remained perfectly intact.59

The IAF suffered another embarrassment the following day when Pakistani F-16s conducting retaliatory strikes shot down Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s outdated MiG-21. Varthaman ejected safely but was captured and used for propaganda prior to his release 60 hours later.60 These back-to-back tactical failures reflect the IAF’s ongoing struggle to modernize and expand beyond its traditional army support role.61 The Ministry of Defense’s unsuccessful bid to acquire 126 French Rafales in 2012 has hampered progress. The 30 billion USD contract, five years in the making, fell through in mid-2015 over disputes with manufacturer Dassault about local production liability.62 A new deal was inked in September 2016 for 36 prebuilt Rafales, which will not finish arriving until 2022. This leaves the IAF still waiting for what amounts to a 70-percent reduction in advanced fighter capability as it contends with formidable opponents in both Pakistan and China.63

China–Pakistan Ties

China and Pakistan have maintained strong diplomatic relations since Pakistan became one of the first countries to recognize the PRC in 1950.64 Although the two never entered into a formal military alliance, they have benefited greatly from mutual assistance in acquiring military technology. China fast-tracked Pakistan’s nuclear program during the 1990s, then provided ballistic missiles that directly threatened India. As Pakistan’s leading defense supplier, China accounts for 39 percent of purchases, followed by the United States with 24 percent. The latter arrangement allows Pakistan to funnel US military equipment to China for reverse-engineering.65

Diplomatically, Pakistan serves as ambassador between China and the Muslim world. This has proven especially beneficial with regard to the Uighurs in Xinjiang. Despite China’s oppression of this Muslim population, none of the major terrorist organizations have retaliated. Their muted response is likely because the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence directorate tacitly oversees terrorist operations through proxies like the Taliban and the Haqqani Network.66 In exchange, China offers political assistance by defending Pakistan’s claim to Kashmir through its permanent seat on the UN Security Council.67

China–Pakistan Economic Corridor

Since 2011, China’s ulterior motive in Kashmir has been the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a 62 billion USD energy and transportation project.68 China’s CPEC investment increased by 46 billion USD in 2015, with 12 billion USD earmarked for constructing a railroad through Kashmir between the Pakistani port of Gwadar and Xinjiang Province. Once completed, it will connect Chinese exports bound for Africa directly to the Indian Ocean and lay the groundwork for future projects such as a Gwadar–Xinjiang oil pipeline.69

In 2017, China surpassed the United States as the world’s largest oil importer. Eighty percent of this oil comes from the Middle East or East Africa via tanker ship and travels circuitously across the Indian Ocean, through the Malacca Strait, and into the South China Sea.70 The convergence of oil, Xinjiang, and the South China Sea is uncoincidental. China’s dependence on maritime commerce is a strategic vulnerability that Beijing is diligently working to mitigate. In 2013, President Xi announced the landmark Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which encompasses the CPEC and quietly extends China’s span of control under the pretext of trade development between Asia, Europe, and Africa. The BRI will produce many positive outcomes such as greater connectivity, financial integration, and better opportunities for emerging markets.71 It will also join China with other authoritarian governments that share common interests and mutual rivals.72

Lines of communication through Pakistan will connect China and Iran. The two governments are already negotiating a 25-year strategic partnership valued at 400 billion USD that gives Iran much-needed relief from US sanctions. Additionally, Tehran will receive more Chinese intelligence to support Iranian operations in Iraq and Syria.73 China will in turn be able to use Iranian ports, railroads, and telecommunications systems. Beijing will also be the beneficiary of heavily discounted Iranian oil sales that will soon no longer depend on sea lanes through natural chokepoints like the Malacca Strait. The long-term value of the BRI, and the CPEC in particular, make thwarting Indian control of Kashmir an important objective for China.74

Airpower in Tibet

To distract India from Pakistan, China is leveraging flashpoints along its own shared border. In 2017, India deployed troops to Doklam, a contested tri-border junction with China and Bhutan. Their mission was to halt Chinese construction of a road near the Doka La pass. After a tense standoff, China suspended construction, but the PLA remained in place. Although India declared victory and withdrew, the temporary return to the status quo may be short-lived.75 In April 2020, China completed airfield improvements to militarize the Ngari Gunsa Airport in nearby Tibet and immediately deployed multirole J-11 and J-16 fighter jets.76

The types of fighters at Ngari Gunsa are significant.77 On the surface, these models provide parity with India’s top fighter, the Su-30MKI, without appearing overly aggressive. China has far superior stealth platforms such as the J-20 stationed near Taiwan, but repositioning such assets in Tibet could signal an intent to escalate, detracting from China’s careful political calculations.78 Instead, China will rely on superior missile technology in the PL-15 air-to-air missile, which uses active radar detection and can strike targets beyond 185 miles. The aircraft themselves may be less menacing, but China maintains a tremendous edge over the R-77 medium-range, active radar homing air-to-air missile used by India.79 As it stands, the IAF is at an extreme disadvantage with China and would likely struggle to protect Indian ground elements if a conflict were to arise. Overcoming this issue will require more sophisticated aircraft and missile technology currently hampered by India’s cumbersome defense acquisition process.

India’s Need for Advanced Fighters

In 2012, the IAF overhauled its doctrine to focus on local power projection. It also developed a new defense plan that called for expanding the IAF from 28 to 40 fighter squadrons specifically to address fighting a two-front war with China and Pakistan.80 The plan incorporated lessons learned from the 1999 Kargil War with Pakistan, which proved the IAF’s effectiveness as a means of nonnuclear deterrence and highlighted its importance in achieving limited strategic objectives.81 Recognized for its role in recapturing lost territory, the IAF was rewarded in 2001 with over 30 percent of India’s 15-year defense spending plan, including money for the ill-fated 30 billion USD Dassault contract.82 The bungled Rafale purchase and the addition of several more Su-30MKIs to the fleet is indicative of another IAF problem. Between India’s two most capable fighters, the Su-30MKI is a Russian model and the Rafale is French. Each platform requires different training and has its own foreign parts provider, making them expensive and difficult to maintain. The IAF logistics tail is further complicated by British-made Jaguars and the Tejas, an indigenous light combat aircraft.83

Instead of rectifying this issue, India doubled down on the IAF’s unorthodox order of battle and spare parts with its most recent acquisitions. In 2019, the Ministry of Defense said it would spend 15 billion USD purchasing 114 new multirole fighters, sparking intense competition among leading defense manufacturers.84 However, in June 2020, a 780 million USD order was finalized instead for 21 refurbished Russian MiG-29s and 12 Su-30s, which are too heavy to launch from high-altitude bases near the contested borders.85 The Ministry of Defense said it would devote an additional 6 billion USD toward purchasing 83 more Indian-made Tejas but failed to account for the roughly 8 billion USD discrepancy.

The preponderance of the investment into Tejas is of little value to the IAF. The delta-wing body style limits maneuverability and its payload is half that of the Su-30MKI. Furthermore, the Tejas actually costs more than the Su-30MKI, because despite being touted as an indigenous platform, it uses American engines, Israeli sensors, and Russian missiles. These components must be purchased at highly inflated export prices for a total cost of 62.7 million USD per airframe.86 As a point of reference, the highly advanced F-35 costs the United States 77.9 million USD per unit, despite its infamous budget overruns during research and development.87

Made in India and the F-21

A difficult military procurement process, specifically Prime Minister Modi’s “Made in India” policy, further frustrates the IAF’s capability to address its acquisition needs. Until 2001, India was completely closed off from foreign direct investment (FDI). It initially opened the defense industry to FDI capped at 26-percent equity to encourage collaboration with Indian manufacturers on indigenous weapons platforms. Failing to attract sufficient interest, the Modi government raised the foreign equity cap to 49 percent in 2014 and all the way to 100 percent in 2016, subject to strict government oversight.88 Due to the bureaucratic complexity of the FDI process, the only firm to submit a 100-percent offer was the Naval Group, a French contractor, whose proposal was rejected.89 Between 2001 and 2018, India attracted a mere 5.13 million USD in FDI, with no meaningful technological advancements.90

One of the rejected proposals from the 2019 multirole fighter competition was from Lockheed Martin, which offered the Indian company Tata Advanced Systems exclusive rights to build a highly upgraded version of the F-16.91 The new prototype, dubbed the F-21, included an advanced weapons package and was available in 138 mission configurations for maximum versatility. Lockheed agreed to work with other Indian corporations as well. It signed a memorandum of understanding with Bharat Electronics to explore future industrial opportunities and even offered to help Hindustan Aeronautics upgrade the Tejas into a more capable air-to-air platform.92 These joint ventures were designed to support Modi’s vision and would have allowed the IAF to begin phasing out its multinational procurement system. In addition, the deal was projected to save India 30–40 percent in lifecycle and operational costs compared to other offers.93

The F-21 retains another distinct benefit that New Delhi might yet reconsider as the reality of Chinese aggression unfolds. Incorporation of the F-21 would grant India access to the world’s largest fighter ecosystem and increase interoperability with Lockheed’s F-16s, F-22s, and F-35s. This could be an important bargaining chip as US and Indian security interests steadily align. Like Japan’s FS-X, the F-21 is based on the F-16, which is widely disseminated and has an established logistics system. It is flown by NATO and key regional partners in the Indo-Pacific such as Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and South Korea.94 The F-21 would also use many of the same components as the F-35, resulting in better integration with fifth-generation fighter technology flown by the United States and Australia. Synchronizing these capabilities could provide a much stronger deterrence to China and discourage escalation as part of a venerated military coalition. Increasing India’s military edge and integrating the IAF with other US partners is critical for establishing a regional security framework that can preserve peace. It is also an important next step in replacing fractured bilateral agreements and the current federated defense model with a more powerful alliance.

From Federated Defense to Quadrilateral Forum

Simply stated, federated defense brings allies and regional partners together to achieve shared security objectives.95 As it stands, each US security partner in the Indo-Pacific determines which objectives it will support and must individually weigh the repercussions of upsetting their status quo with China. China’s strong economic influence all but ensures there will be no amalgamated response to indirect Chinese aggression. This allows China to tacitly ignore international boundaries while consolidating even greater economic power and surreptitiously growing its 178 billion USD defense budget.96 Competing with China’s singularly overwhelming regional power projection cannot be achieved bilaterally. To protect individual sovereignty, the United States needs a formal alliance with collectively greater strength vis-à-vis China and the promise of mutual support. One such possibility is a Quadrilateral Security Forum (Quad) between the United States, India, Japan, and Australia.

The Quad concept began with the combined humanitarian response to the 2004 earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Navies from all four countries came together to support rescue and recovery missions, leading to conjecture that future cooperation could be leveraged to support freedom of navigation operations. Japan in particular was eager to capitalize on this opportunity. In spring 2005, amid anti-Japanese protests in China, leaders made an unprecedented decision to include India in the East Asian Summit (EAS).97 The EAS consists of 18 member countries and is the premier forum for strategic dialogue in the Indo-Pacific. Topics often include counterterrorism, maritime cooperation, and the South China Sea. Combined, EAS countries represent 58 percent of the world’s population and 54 percent of global GDP, making India’s participation a significant milestone in international affairs.98

During his first term as Japanese prime minister, Shinzō Abe strongly advocated for the Quad, first in his book Toward a Beautiful Country and again during a trip to New Delhi in 2007. Speaking to the Indian Parliament, Abe described “an arc of freedom and prosperity” across the Indian and Pacific Oceans, backed by a “dynamic coupling” of Quad members. With China as the obvious point of concern, the idea almost reached fruition following the 2007 ASEAN Summit in Manila. Afterward, diplomats from the Quad countries met briefly, enraging Beijing, which levied complaints against each respective government. Concerned about further antagonizing China, Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd withdrew from the India–US Malabar naval exercise in 2008 and discontinued future quadrilateral talks.99

Until recently, the Quad had effectively dissolved. However, recognition that appeasement in the South China Sea has failed and concerns over the BRI have given the concept new life. Encouraged by India’s “Act East” policy, Japan became a permanent participant in Malabar in 2015, the same year it signed agreements for sharing defense technology and other classified information with India. In 2016, Prime Minister Modi visited Japan, declaring a “new era in Japan-India relations,” followed by a vision statement in 2018 reiterating Japan and India’s commitment to freedom in the Indo-Pacific.100

India’s military relations with Australia have warmed as well. Since 2015, the two have conducted their own biannual exercise called AUSINDEX.101 More recently, in June 2020, India and Australia signed a mutual logistics support agreement allowing them to use each other’s military bases, a significant good faith gesture. The two also elevated their bilateral strategic partnership to a comprehensive strategic partnership, promising to enhance the scope of future military exercises. Most telling is that for the first time since 2007, Australia will once again participate in Malabar in 2020, despite already being threatened with sanctions by China for demanding an investigation into the COVID-19 outbreak.102

While a Quadrilateral Alliance would inherently be built around military capabilities, its capacity for reciprocal economic sanctions should not be understated. Quad countries account for over 34 percent of the world’s GDP.103 They also represent roughly 21 percent of China’s annual imports and exports. If the Quad were expanded to include South Korea and the Philippines, the latter figure rises to 32 percent.104 As China earnestly seeks to grow its middle class, collective economic strength is a negotiating tool that could be used to influence Chinese foreign policy as well as domestic politics. While the 2020 National Security Law and China’s inhumane treatment of Uighurs may not constitute acts of war, the international community’s complicity should be rectified.

By remaining disorganized, the United States and its allies play directly into China’s long-term strategic plan. To this end, Washington’s ability to elevate India’s role while forming a determined Indo-Pacific treaty organization will likely signal Asia’s fate. With the world’s largest economy and one of the fastest growing, most sophisticated militaries, China is increasingly capable of imperialistic power projection and extortion. Through military and economic cooperation, the United States and its allies must seek to avoid the precipice of appeasement and protect the bounds of international sovereignty. Failure to impart a clear determination to uphold international laws will breed an unstoppable menace and exact an ever-higher price for peace.


The rise of China has dramatically altered the global balance of power. China’s aggressive stance on domestic politics and territorial disputes leave little evidence to suggest that it will settle for being a benign hegemon. Instead, China will continue to pursue its nationalistic agenda by probing the international community’s resolve to stand up to its antagonistic behavior while exploiting weaknesses in US security strategy in the Indo-Pacific. As China manifests its regional military and economic dominance, bilateral US defense partnerships are insufficient for safeguarding the sovereignty of other countries in China’s path. A modern IAF and Indian participation in a quadrilateral alliance with the United States, Australia, and Japan provides a key opportunity to deter Chinese aggression and help restore peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

Capt Daniel Myers, USAF

Captain Myers is an air battle manager assigned to the 621st Air Control Squadron, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea. Fangs out!