The Quad Plus Think Tank Dialogue in Sydney, Australia, 20-21 February, 2019
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The Quad Plus think tanks dialogue was held in Sydney from 20-21 Feb, 2019. Participants were the hosts Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), along with Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), India, Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), and the Heritage Foundation, USA. Additional invitees were Institute of International Relations (IFRI), France, and Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU).

Topics covered during the panel discussions were as follows:-

  1. Indo pacific concept, rules and how to assert these;
  2. Maritime domain awareness and Quad plus cooperation;
  3. Cooperation on Af-Pak security issues;
  4. Missile threat and missile defence cooperation;
  5. Integrating the Quad into other regional organizations;
  6. Open discussions on moving the Quad forward.

Lt Gen Ravi Sawhney and Ambassador Anil Wadhwa presented papers on behalf of the VIF on the role of Quad in Afghanistan and Integrating the Quad into other regional organizations respectively. Ambassador Anil Wadhwa was also a discussant on the panel for Indo pacific concept, rules and how to assert them and Vice Admiral Anil Chopra was a discussant for the panels on maritime domain awareness and Quad plus cooperation as well as missile threat and missile defence cooperation.

The thrust of Gen Sawhney’s paper was that the international community and the US should push the Taliban to moderate its ideology in accordance with the Afghan constitution and ensure that the arms group actually honors their side of the bargain in case of a peace deal. The Quad should give its unconditional support to the Afghan government and its people throughout these negotiations and beyond. Moreover, it was necessary for the international community to provide necessary funding to the Afghan government. He also emphasized that the Afghan forces were the one who were actually fighting on the ground, not the foreign forces. And finally, keeping in view its negative credentials, there is no way that Pakistan should be given a role of either the mentor or facilitator in the peace process. The peace process must primarily be led and owned by Afghans.

Main points emphasized in Ambassador Anil Wadhwa’s paper were:-

  1. The Quad has a shared interest in maintaining a strategic balance in the Indo Pacific and will need to work with ASEAN in this endeavor.
  2. The formation of this grouping is a gradual process. Presently, it fully serves the purpose of improving coordination in the Indo-Pacific.
  3. Centrality of the ASEAN must be emphasized if the Quad needs to carry the South East Asian nations with it. Regional institutions like EAS, ARF, ARF, ADMM+ have all been advocating a regional security architecture based on the twin principles of shared security and prosperity.

On 15 November, Indonesia came up with a paper on behalf of the ASEAN on ‘Indo Pacific Concept’. In 2019, this concept will be endorsed at the ASEAN summit. Indonesia has advocated a ‘soft, people to people approach’ and the Indonesian vision of the Indo-Pacific – without rejecting it – seeks to strengthen cooperation between participating countries in the East Asia Summit Conference and other partners among the Indian Ocean Rim countries. President Jokowi has separately said that the Indo-Pacific needs no new institution. The cooperation is to be focused on maritime cooperation including elimination of maritime crimes, cooperation in connectivity to boost economic growth and cooperation to create sustainable development.

On Connectivity, india has its flagship projects like the Trilateral Highway and the Kaladan Multi-modal Project. Japan has announced that it will boost the $110 billion fund it had created in 2015 for a 5-year period to a sum of $ 200 billion that would be offered for the same period. In addition, Japan’s concessionary loans in yen have been doubled to 1 trillion yen since 2015. With the help from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Asian Development Bank (ADB) has created Asia’s leading private sector infrastructure fund (LEAP) to 2016 so that it could leverage and complement money lent to non-governmental projects. The Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development (BUILD) Act of the US will provide $60 billion in funding for the US International Development Finance Corporation. The Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) will utilize an appropriation of $1.5 billion a year up to the next five years for a range of activities in East and South East Asia. The Act envisages maritime training and freedom of navigation operations in the Indo – Pacific. In November 2018, Australia committed itself to delivering a $2 billion infrastructure initiative to the Pacific. In addition, it will deliver an additional $1 billion in callable capital to Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC), Australia’s export promotion Agency. All this is to built infrastructure in the Pacific. India also provides grants of $1 million annually to each of the 14 Pacific Island States. Quad partners can pool their resources and work together in this regard.

There is need for greater economic integration among the quad members. Quad should cooperate in areas of blue economy, coastal surveillance, building offshore patrolling capabilities, hydrographic services, and information sharing for maritime domain awareness. Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) and Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) must be used more by the Quad. In future Quad members can be expected to move closer on issues like maritime domain awareness, and logistics.

Overall, the discussions moved into a concrete domain from concepts which had been discussed in the past. The following points were, inter alia, discussed on the future of quad:-

  1. A quad leaders’ summit;
  2. Cooperation in building Infrastructure and Connectivity in the Indo-Pacific region;
  3. Consideration of Quad issuing common statements, including the concept of the Indo-Pacific;
  4. Regular consultations at the working level;
  5. Moving forward cooperation in Maritime Defence Awareness;
  6. Flexibility on the concept of the “Free and open Indo Pacific”;
  7. Continued cooperation on Afghanistan;
  8. Initiatives in disaster relief for the region;
  9. Cooperation amongst Quad members themselves;
  10. Cooperation in the digital and cyber security fields;
  11. Providing Expertise when required for smaller states.

VIF representatives advocated the view that the Quad should remain a dialogue which is nimble and flexible. The VIF also offered to host the next version of the Quad think tanks dialogue.

Event Date 
February 20, 2019

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