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Quad Summit demonstrates group’s importance

Education will be next focus area for development

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Leaders of the Quad countries walk to the East Room of the White House, Sept. 24, 2021.

Leaders of the Quad countries walk to the East Room of the White House, Sept. 24, 2021. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) Summit, held on Friday (Sept. 24) rebuffed the narrative the group is no longer relevant in the aftermath of the AUKUS deal.

This theory gets the Quad wrong. The Quad is not a "military alliance" like AUKUS, nor is it an "Asian NATO." Rather, it is an important platform for countries to work on joint strategic challenges in the region, and to provide an alternative economic narrative to China’s.

This latest summit showed the group’s evolution into new areas, discussing topics as varied as COVID-19 vaccines, climate change, emerging technology, greater cooperation in space, infrastructure projects, and supply chains.

Vaccines

The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to vaccination, donating a combined 1.2 billion vaccine doses globally. They also launched a Quad Vaccine Experts Group, made up of experts from the four countries, who will build stronger ties and better align plans for a pandemic response in the event of future outbreaks.

This is in line with the Quad’s move beyond traditional military cooperation and extending its scope to public health, recognizing this is a pillar for resilience in the region.

Infrastructure

Quad countries are working together on infrastructure and economic projects too. Bilateral arrangements include India and Japan’s Asia Africa growth corridor (AAGC), which envisions connectivity projects between Africa and Asia as a counter to BRI.

The U.S., Australia, and Japan are also working together on the Trilateral Partnership for Infrastructure Investment, which includes a Palau cable project, with a new cable that runs from Singapore via the tiny Pacific island nation and on to the west coast of the U.S.

To build upon this momentum, the Quad countries need to work closely together with a greater sense of urgency and lay out a roadmap for quadrilateral projects that include all members.

Economic

One of the important economic initiatives in the group this year has been the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI). Formed by Japan, Australia, and India, it aims at “attaining strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth in the region.”

Yet, extending this kind of framework to all the Quad countries will prove difficult. The four countries currently lack an economic platform that works for all four countries.

While Japan and Australia are members of the CPTPP and RCEP, India and the U.S. are not. There are also major trade issues between India and the U.S.

The private sector has the potential to assist here. The United States International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC), for instance, was set up during the Trump administration to provide foreign aid through the financing of private development projects.

The USIDFC could establish projects like Asia EDGE (Enhancing Development through Growth and Energy), which focuses on energy development for the country’s Indo-Pacific partners.

Education

Education is an especially interesting development. At the meeting, a scholarship program for Science Technology English and Management (STEM) students was announced.

This will enable 25 students to pursue post-graduate and doctoral degrees in the U.S., and these scholarships will be sponsored by private donors. This shows the importance of educational exchanges and soft power for strengthening the Quad.

Many Japanese students pursue higher education in the U.S., while Indian students form a large chunk of the international student community in Australia and the U.S. While the scholarship is a positive development, more exchanges between all four countries should follow. For greater cooperation in technology, it is essential to boost cooperation in the sphere of R&D especially.

The Quad grouping can not be dismissed given the countries together represent a combined GDP of US$34 trillion (NT$ 948.6 trillion) and there is clear common ground on a number of issues. Going forward, it will be important to have a clear road map, especially for more robust economic cooperation.

The new developments from the latest meeting are testament to the Quad’s expanding role in the Indo-Pacific, as it forms part of a broader network of partnerships between like-minded countries in the region.

Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi-based policy analyst associated with OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat, India. His areas of interest include South Asian regional cooperation, BRI, and the role of sub-national forces in foreign policy.


Updated : 2021-10-24 02:20 GMT+08:00