FSI Holds Roundtable Discussion on the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue

The speakers of the roundtable discussion on the Quad (L-R): Amb. Claro Cristobal, Prof. Maria Anna Rowena Luz Layador-Roaquin, Dr. Takehisa Masuko, Dr. Aileen Baviera, Dr. Amado Mendoza, Dr. Renato De Castro, and Dr. Joefe Santarita.

On 20 February 2018, the Foreign Service Institute facilitated a roundtable discussion on the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue at the Ambassador Benedicto Room, Carlos P. Romulo Library, Department of Foreign Affairs. The Quad, as it is also known, is a loose geostrategic association and informal strategic dialogue among the United States, Japan, Australia, and India to discuss regional and global cooperation. Scholars from leading universities in the Philippines gathered to present various perspectives on the concept of Quad and its strategic and diplomatic interpretations, and to provide strategic assessment of the potential implications of the revival of the Quad in the Indo-Pacific region. University of the Philippines’ Political Science Professor Maria Anna Rowena Luz Layador-Roaquin served as the moderator.

The speakers each presented the perceived viewpoints of the Quad countries.   Collectively, they noted the convergence of the US, Japan, Australia, and India in their aspirations for regional peace and stability. The role of the Quad in maintaining the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific is crucial, as its goals are to manage a rules-based international order, protect democratic values and enhance economic cooperation. Notably, the rising tensions in the South China Sea, and the increasing doubts on some states’ commitments to maintain a rules-based international order, provided the impetus for the revival of the Quad.

Its limitations are rooted in the differing national interests of its members, and the complexities of overlapping bilateral and multilateral relations with other actors.  On one hand, the US and Japan’s involvement in the Quad is primarily for balance of power in the region.  On the other hand, India and Australia view it as having the potential to secure the region as well as provide regional connectivity and trade. Among the speakers’ recommendations was to monitor the engagements of Quad members to determine the trajectory of multilateral cooperation.

Scholars and government representatives discussing the revival of the Quad and its implications for the Indo-Pacific region.

Dr. Renato De Castro of De La Salle University elaborated on Australia’s return to the Quad in light of its perception of regional threats to its national interests. In the long term, Australia does not expect the Quad to evolve into a military alliance due to geographical and economic factors, such as its own interdependence with China; however, it strives to take advantage of the exploratory nature of the dialogue in addressing regional issues. In the case of Japan, Dr. Takehisa Masuko of the Ateneo de Manila University explained that its “soft containment” policy is grounded on its vital maritime interests and the theory of democratic peace. While its economic linkages with Southeast Asia provide alternative opportunities for development, its proactive defense policy is observed as a double-edged sword due to possible contradictions with its war-renouncing constitution.

Dr. Joefe Santarita, Dean of the UP Asian Center, talked of India’s increasing participation in the Quad with its “Act East” policy. Although its maritime policy has yet to converge with the Quad’s security objectives, India’s non-aligned approach to regional balance of power and peace can accentuate the benefits of economic connectivity among its allies and the world at large. UP’s Dr. Aileen Baviera discussed China’s attitude about the resurgence of the Quad, as it has its own economic initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the String of Pearls. The reluctance of Australia and India to engage in strategic counterbalancing measures reflects their desire to maintain stable economic ties with China, thus posing limitations on the cohesion of the Quad.

Dr. Amado Mendoza, also from UP, revisited lessons from the Cold War geopolitics to understand the security architecture of the Quad. The dynamics of sea lanes in the Asia-Pacific region is central to the Quad’s theme on freedom of navigation and overflight in maritime commons. He also illustrated the strategic value of alternative maritime passages in the region to circumvent political barriers to free trade and travel.

During the open forum, the ambivalent position of ASEAN on the Quad and the extreme possibility of an outbreak of naval warfare in the Asia-Pacific region were raised. The speakers noted that cooperation between interested ASEAN countries and the Quad would expand the Quad’s ability to create diplomatic options and mitigate disparities in interests. In addition, deterrence can only be strengthened through the cohesion of its members in their security and economic agendas. A stronger Quad requires an institutional framework similar to the East Asia Summit to keep the countries engaged in the region, and establish short-term and long-term outlooks.

DFA offices and other government agencies attended the roundtable discussion.