POLICY

A History of the Quad

By Staff Writer
June 30, 2022
On May 24 of 2022, the leaders of the US, Australia, India and Japan gathered together in Tokyo for the Quad Leaders’ Meeting. This was just the second such meeting of the national leaders, but during the talks they had a candid discussion on regional and global situations, including the impact of the situation in Ukraine on the Indo-Pacific; they concurred on the further promotion of practical cooperation in making the region more resilient as it faces the pressing challenges of COVID-19, climate change, and infrastructure issues; and they confirmed their commitment to continuing close coordination with each other.
The leaders of the four Quad nations
The leaders of the four Quad nations met in Tokyo to discuss the many crises currently facing the Indo-Pacific region and the world. (Photo: Cabinet Public Affairs Office)
But what is the Quad, and how did it come to be? The Quad, which is the colloquial name for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, is a strategic security dialogue between Japan, Australia, India, and the US, the four largest democracies in the Indo-Pacific region. Together, these four nations share fundamental values and are committed to strengthening a free and open international order based on the rule of law, and have been promoting practical cooperation in various fields, including vaccines, infrastructure, climate change, and critical and emerging technologies, to realize a "Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)." The four countries have also concurred on the importance of making positive contribution to the region.

The first informal appearance of the Quad came in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, which caused terrible devastation and loss of life in many countries throughout the region. Following this disaster, Japan, Australia, India and the US formed a core group to lead the support of the international community. Together, they were able to not only provide much needed humanitarian aid, but also to coordinate relief efforts coming in from the rest of the world.
The first official “Quad” meeting was held just over two years later in 2007, at the invitation of then-Prime Minister Abe of Japan. His idea was that a dialogue between like-minded nations, working in cooperation to support the development of the Indo-Pacific, might eventually grow into an “Asian Arc of Democracy”. The initial meeting was just an exploratory one, with no formal agenda and no fixed conclusions, but it established expectations that there would be subsequent meetings.

It would not be until 2019 that the foreign ministers of the four nations would meet together again for the first time, coming together for the UN General Assembly. All four countries had gone through changes in the ensuing ten years, and the geopolitical situation in the Indo-Pacific had transformed significantly. This time, interest in developing the role of the Quad as a formal organization was stronger, and an agreement was made for future meetings. In addition, “Quad Plus” meetings were held with additional nations, such as New Zealand, South Korea, and Vietnam, who were invited to discuss their approaches to controlling the spread of COVID-19.
The first meeting between the leaders of the four countries would come in March of 2021. At the beginning of the month, US President Biden and Australian Prime Minister Morrison announced that they would be meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Suga and Indian Prime Minister Modi. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic made it necessary for this first leaders’ conference to be held online, and it was the foremost topic of discussion, as they talked about plans for producing and distributing vaccines, and about how to deal with the social, economic, and health impacts of the pandemic.

In addition, the four countries have been promoting practical cooperation in various other areas, including quality infrastructure, maritime security, counter-terrorism, cyber security, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, with the aim of realizing a "Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP).” During this meeting, the leaders concurred to launch working groups on vaccines, critical and emerging technologies, and climate change. While confirming the steady progress in these areas, the leaders agreed to launch working groups in the areas of quality infrastructure, space, and cyber security, as well as to strengthen cooperation in the areas of clean energy and people-to-people exchange at the summit meeting in September 2021.
Six months after meeting online, the first in-person Quad leaders’ meeting was held in Washington D.C. on September 24, 2021. The four leaders confirmed the steady progress at the working groups that had been launched following the March meeting, They strongly emphasized their willingness to contribute to the positive development of the region through practical cooperation, and issued a joint statement that, among other things, affirmed their commitment to promoting free, open, rules-based order, rooted in international law and undaunted by coercion, to bolster security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.

The crises currently facing the world have made it clear that international cooperation will be essential to preserving democracy, human rights and sustainable economic growth. Fortunately, after the success of recent meetings, the leaders of the four countries have pledged their commitment to the continuing development of the Quad relationship.
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