Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, The University of Tokyo

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or the Quad, is increasingly at the center stage of world politics. This newly incorporated idea is quickly taking some concrete shape.

The Quad has been an informal strategic forum between the United States, Japan, Australia and India whose foreign ministerial meeting took place firstly in September last year on the sidelines of the UN general assembly.

After this year’s second foreign ministerial meeting in Tokyo, which ended without any formal joint statement, US Secretary of State Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced to media his “hope” of institutionalizing this framework. On October 9, Secretary Pompeo emphasized in a radio talk show that the Quad dialogue is aimed at countering China’s aggressive behavior in the region. “We have begun to build out a set of relationships all throughout Asia that are enabling us to challenge the Chinese Communist Party…And one of the tools that we use is this set of relationships with four powerful democracies.”

What kind of institutionalization does it undergo is still unclear, much is depended on India’s will and capability. Eyes are on the next step, the US-India 2+2 meeting between the foreign and defense ministers of both countries that is expected to take place in October 26-27.

In contrast to his boss, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E. Biegun who visited India Oct. 12 kept a sober attitude during his preliminary talks. According to Mr. Biegun, the emerging Quad framework is “not an alliance on the postwar model, but a fundamental alignment along shared security and geopolitical goals, shared interests, and shared values.”

The Quad cannot be the NATO of Indio-Pacific which is going to contain China. Of course, China is an “Elephant in the room” for everyone, as Mr. Biegun admits.

Anyone involved in the Quad would admit that it’s a limited one which cannot deter or contain China by itself. Still, countries faced with Chinese aggression and intransigence are seeking for viable strategic linkages by which countries navigate together in the rough seas with poor visibility, being afraid of hitting a glacier.

For the moment, countries surrounding the vast oceans of Indo-Pacific are watching carefully two competing giants, in their claims and their behavior. How sustainable their commitments are is the key point everyone quietly assessing.