The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad, composed of the United States, Japan, Australia, and India as a formation seeks to deepen economic, diplomatic, and military ties among these different countries (Wei, 2022). Various media sources have constantly used the term ‘Asian NATO’ to draw a connection between the Quad and NATO. This seeks to suggest to the general public and diplomatic circles how the Quad has the potential to evolve to be a formal military alliance within the Asian region, thus rivaling their Western counterparts under the NATO umbrella. Nevertheless, despite the Quad having a security dimension just like NATO, at the moment, it is safe to assert that the Quad is not a formal military alliance; thus, the term Asian NATO is misguided to some extent. Critics of the Quad have, however, focused on the treaty obligation that an attack against one member is an attack against all, triggering a collective response to explain why the Quad may be more focused on following the NATO framework. However, multiple pieces of evidence and the running of the Quad indicate that the organization is far from becoming akin to NATO.
Evidence indicates that the Quad operating structure is much loose and flexible, and the group largely centers on dialogue, cooperation, and coordination instead of maintaining a collective defense seen in NATO. The different member countries of the Quad have established collaboration in areas of importance such as infrastructure development, cybersecurity, counterterrorism, regional interconnection, and maritime security. In some circumstances, the Quad members also undertake joint military exercises, undertake capacity-building efforts, and assist each other in intelligence sharing (Rossiter & Cannon, 2022). By getting involved in these activities, they strengthen the collective capabilities of the Quad member states, and it is this action that has made many media sources, and analysts think of the Quad as the Asian NATO. However, the quad countries do not have the institutionalized and stronger military cooperation evident in the NATO formation. The joint drills and military exercises carried out by the Quad are solely for policy coordination, capacity building, and intelligence sharing instead of attaining military integration.
On the other hand, the Quad members are yet to make clear the intention to establish a formal military alliance and adopt mutual defense commitments as stated in NATO’s article 5. Instead, the Quad tends to operate on a need basis, responding once a new issue emerges. The Quad addresses the specific regional challenges and only pursues the shared objectives via diplomacy, dialogue, and cooperation. Therefore, it is evident that the structure and purpose of the Quad differ significantly from that of NATO, and the goal is just coordination, strategic alignment, and cooperation, making the Quad more of an economic bloc than a military alliance. Without a legally binding commitment to the collective defense, the Quad engagements are solely on voluntary cooperation and coordination as opposed to binding security guarantees (Duggal, 2022). All the members are free to pursue individual security policies and maintain sovereignty as opposed to the NATO-like security commitment. This demonstrates how the Quad does not pursue the NATO structure but has its own operations standards that seek to boost the wellbeing of the member countries and other countries willing to cooperate.
Reflecting on the scope of membership, there are clear distinctions between the Quad and NATO which offers further evidence of why the Quad is not an Asian NATO. Apart from the four initial founders of the Quad mentioned earlier, the organization has been keen on maintaining talks with other states by holding high-level meetings and strategic dialogues to enhance the economic and political stability of these other countries. The Quad seeks to promote an open, free, rules-based, and inclusive Indo-Pacific order by focusing on regional security challenges and enhancing regional cooperation. The open-arms policy and the absence of exclusivity in its structure defy the perception that the Quad is an Asian NATO (Rossiter & Cannon, 2022). This is because NATO has adopted the exclusive approach where talks and dialogues are strictly meant for the member states, and NATO makes no effort to hold dialogues with other states. Its activities are restricted to the Euro-Atlantic region, especially in defense and stability of the member countries in this region.
Interestingly, the term Asian NATO to refer to the Quad has also been adopted by China, with some top analysts mentioning how the Quad’s unmentioned goal is solely to bulwark China’s aggression in the Asian region. Nevertheless, these also remain allegations that cannot be proved as the Quad, through its no exclusivity policy, has, on several instances, engaged and cooperated with China on multiple issues. Although the Quad countries acknowledge the need to address the concerning behaviors that China tend to exhibit sometimes, they have also maintained diplomatic and economic engagements with China (Wei, 2022). The Quad members have also been at the forefront of enhancing constructive engagement and expressed their willingness to work with China on multiple issues ranging from global health to climate change. With this commitment put forward by the Quad, we can state that the Quad is not an Asian NATO but an economic bloc that not only seeks to have the wellbeing of member states but other close nations as well.
In a nutshell, the Quad Group has a few similarities with NATO, such as the engagement on security issues among the member countries. However, a blanket conclusion on the Quad as being an Asian NATO is fundamentally flawed as the group is different in multiple areas, such as its purpose, structure, security commitments, membership, regional focus, and military engagements. The Quad seeks to promote cooperation in the Indo-pacific region, promote economic growth and political stability but not pursue a military integration objective as it is in NATO. Therefore, even with the concerns raised by the analysts and nations such as China on the Quad being aimed at suppressing China’s dominance, the actions of the Quad itself speak otherwise. The Quad has been at the forefront of collaborating with China on issues of global importance as well as economic engagement, thus negating the perception of the Quad’s intention to curtail China’s ambitions.
Duggal, M. (2022). Quad as Asian NATO: A Practical Proposition? In Multilateralism in the Indo-Pacific (pp. 103-123). Routledge.
Rossiter, A., & Cannon, B. J. (2023). Quad in the Indo-Pacific: Role of Informality in Countering China. https://isdp.eu/content/uploads/2023/02/Brief-Feb-7-2023-Quad-final-Ash-Rossiter-Brendon-J.-Cannon.pdf
Wei, Z. (2022). The evolution of the ‘QUAD’: driving forces, impacts, and prospects. China International Strategy Review, 1-17. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42533-022-00119-w