India wants the Quad to become a system to “ensure freedom of navigation (FoN) and freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS)” in the Indian Ocean and around, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat has said while highlighting the threat of a combined challenge from Pakistan and China on two fronts, and cautioning Pakistan against taking any advantage of the tensions with China.

What is QUAD?

  • Australia, Japan, India and the United States collectively launched ad hoc operations to provide relief following the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.
  • In Manila in 2007, the PMs of India, Japan, and Australia met with the then U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum, marking the first Quadrilateral summit.
  • Later in 2007, the four countries along with Singapore held a large multilateral naval exercise, the Exercise Malabar, in the Bay of Bengal. China, which saw the exercises as part of a containment strategy, registered diplomatic protests with all four capitals.
  • Late in 2012, in an influential article outlining his vision for ‘Asia’s Democratic Security Diamond‘, PM Shinzo Abe argued that peace, stability and freedom of navigation in the Pacific are inseparable from peace, stability and freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean, and called for the four powers to work together. 

About the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ 

  • In a speech delivered in August 2007 by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the Indian Parliament, he alluded to a book by the Mughal prince Dara Shikoh in describing the “dynamic coupling” of the Indian and Pacific oceans as the “confluence of the two seas.”
  • The term ‘Indo-Pacific’ implies that the Indian and Pacific Oceans are a single, shared strategic space. What happens in one, has implications in the other. Thus the militarisation of the South China Sea directly affects India, just as developments in the Indian Ocean have immediate consequences for Japan or the US.

Way forward 

To be more effective in the vast littoral, India needs to intensify the exchange of maritime intelligence, negotiate agreements to share naval infrastructure facilities in the littoral and put in place logistical support arrangements with its European partners. Japan’s plans to bring France and Britain on board the QUAD can only reinforce India’s maritime partnerships with Europe.

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