When senior officials from the United States, India, Japan and Australia recently held a rare four-way dialogue in Singapore, the meeting did not produce a single joint statement. Instead, it resulted in four – one for each country.
The outcome reflected the ambiguities surrounding the loose grouping that has been both hailed and scorned as a potential counterweight to China’s growing clout in the Asia-Pacific.
When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe initiated the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the “Quad”, in 2007, he envisaged a “democratic security diamond” capable of checking Beijing’s rising influence in the region. The group held just one round of dialogue and joint military drills that year before entering a decade-long hiatus when Australia withdrew to forge closer relations with Beijing.
Its most recent gathering, held on the sidelines of the Asean summits earlier this month, was the first since its revival last year, and its fourth since its inception. The members in Singapore individually pledged support for an “open” and “rules-based” region but the group has not been formalised at the ministerial level and the timing of its next meeting is unclear.