Quadrilateral Security Initiative 2.0: Second Attempt at Indo-Pacific Maritime Alliance

1 March 2018 Balaji Chandramohan, FDI Visiting Fellow Download PDF

Key Points

  • The proposed second iteration of the Quadrilateral Security Initiative – “Quad 2.0” – is an informal, security-focussed maritime alliance of the United States, India, Japan and Australia.
  • It aims to balance Beijing’s maritime aggression.
  • The shift of focus from the Asia-Pacific to the Indo-Pacific is an acknowledgement of India’s growing influence in the region and beyond.
  • Vietnam, Indonesia and France may choose to join the grouping in the future.
  • The Quad 2.0 could require India to adopt the logistical and communications standards that are common to the other three participants. It could require New Delhi to sign additional agreements with Washington to standardise that aspect of the alliance.


The original Quadrilateral Security Initiative was a proposed maritime alliance that included the United States, Japan and Australia, with India as a reluctant partner. It has been rebadged as “Quad 2.0” because India is now more active in the nascent alliance, including in the western Pacific, and much more embedded in US and Australian maritime strategic thinking on the Indo-Pacific.

The proposed Quadrilateral Security Initiative 2.0 is an informal maritime alliance of the United States, India, Japan and Australia which primarily involves co-operation in the Indo-Pacific. In contrast, the original Quad arrangement of a decade ago was centred on the Asia-Pacific.


Geostrategic Orientation of the Quadrilateral Security Initiative

The Quad 2.0 was formed on the sidelines of the November 2017 Association of South-East Asian Nations and East Asia Summits held in Manila, with the proposal for the maritime alliance being mooted by Japan. The Initiative is primarily focussed on balancing China in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans. As an Indo-Pacific maritime alliance, Quad 2.0 would work to negate Beijing’s expanding maritime presence by planning for enhanced command of the sea in the Indo-Pacific on the part of its four members, thereby denying that advantage to China, which is an important prerequisite for Beijing’s island chain strategy.[1] That will be reflected in the concentration of forces and for the fleet co-operations of the Quad 2.0, as envisaged.

Further, the proposed maritime alliance will help India and Australia to re-arrange their existing command structures and fleet arrangements to provide for enhanced co-operation in the Indian and Pacific Ocean theatres. China sees India’s increased military expansion in the Andaman Islands as a distinct threat to its energy shipments from Africa and the Middle East.

Island Chains Map

To the east, the waterways within the “Second Island Chain” include Philippine and Indonesian territorial waters. The chain ranges from the Honshu in the north to the Marianas, Guam and Palau in the south. The Quad 2.0 is thus an effort to link the two distinct, yet interrelated, geographic regions.

Geopolitical Perspective of the Quad 2.0

The Quad 2.0 focusses on the Indo-Pacific as it is understood that China has concentrated on expanding the South Sea Fleet rather than the North and East Sea Fleets in the last ten years warranting an adjustment in focus to the broader notion of the Indo-Pacific, rather than the Asia-Pacific, which excludes the western Indian Ocean.

In fact, as FDI’s Lindsay Hughes points out, China’s increased belligerence in the South China Sea and its growing presence in the Indian Ocean, with bases in Djibouti, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, and, potentially at Jiwani in Pakistan and in the Maldives – shadowing US naval bases in the region and encircling India – have actually served to draw India into the Quad 2.0.

Indeed, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the Quad 2.0 could eventually evolve into a larger alliance similar to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), albeit with a subtle difference from the original conception of the Quad arrangement, which was primarily a maritime arrangement centred on naval strategy. In addition to the four original countries, Vietnam, Indonesia and France may be possible future members of Quad 2.0.

Vietnam, for instance, is a key member of the Association of South-East Asian Countries (ASEAN), has a direct interest in the contested waters of the South China Sea. It has been, for a long time now, highly concerned by China’s continued maritime expansion around the Paracel and Spratley Islands. Given the warm nature of the Vietnam-US relationship – engendered in large part by the activities of Beijing – a future move towards a structure such as Quad 2.0 may no longer be such a stretch for Hanoi.

France has territories and military bases in both the western Indian Ocean and the South Pacific and, as a member of NATO, does not need the latest Quad iteration to have a maritime alliance with the United States. It is, however, likely that France, already an important supplier of defence materiel to India and Australia, will increase its co-operation with New Delhi and Canberra. It is expected that India and France will agree to sign a Logistics Support Agreement during the visit to India in March of French President Emmanuel Macron that will allow India access to French military bases in the western Indian Ocean. India may even be given the opportunity to construct bases in French-held territories.

If the Quad 2.0 were extended to include France, Paris could be expected to look at strengthening the existing trilateral arrangements that it has with Australia and New Zealand (FRANZ). If the Indian armed forces are given access to French bases in the Indian Ocean, it is reasonable to suppose that similar access to the French South Pacific territories would also be forthcoming. If so, that may see Indian forces operating alongside their French, New Zealand and Australian counterparts in such exercises as the biannual Croix du Sud.

Indonesia will also work with the latest Quad iteration by participating in operational exercises such as Malabar, which may, in the future, also see the return of Australian participation. For Indonesia, the main interest in joining the future Quad involves issues related to the so-called Second Island Chain. It is understood that Hainan Island is a critical element in China’s overall defence strategy, as it would provide bases for combat aircraft operating around the Indonesian archipelago, the Australian “Sea-Air Gap”, and the southern approaches to Guam. Hainan has six airfields, three of which are semi-hardened/hardened fighter bases. Further, Hainan could be used as a base for submarine operations in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean by China’s South Sea Fleet. The other three airports are dual-use civil-military facilities, two of which have 11,000-foot runways capable of accommodating long-range aircraft.

In fact, the Indonesian Navy has, since 2014, co-operated with the Royal Australian Navy through the multilateral Exercise Komodo. Indonesia is also expected to look at co-operating with India in the South China Sea.

Operational Significance of the Quad 2.0

The operational significance of Quad 2.0 will be reflected in the co-operation between various US operational commands and those of the proposed maritime partners. The Indian Navy, for instance, can be expected to increase its co-operation with the US Central, African and Pacific Commands, thus bringing it to in line with Japan and Australia.

At the operational level, India-US co-operation will be facilitated by India signing the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the US. Once signed, the LEMOA will permit the military forces of each country to resupply, replenish and stage operations out of the other’s military air bases, land facilities and ports.

From India’s perspective, another important operational achievement that results from the Quad 2.0 will be the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), which permits access to encrypted communications in real time from US satellites.

Unlike previously, when Pakistan was a close ally of the United States, which prevented India from entering into the CISMOA and Basic Exchange and Co-operation Agreement (BECA), the present arrangements will allow for the integration of the communications networks and systems enabling India and the US to, for example, mount joint military actions, and assist unit and higher echelon commanders to converse with each other in peacetime and war using real time communications links and to share classified data and information. The Quad 2.0 could also facilitate the BECA, which would allow the United States to share with India sensitive data to aid targeting and navigation. BECA would facilitate the exchange of information picked up by sensors on satellites and other space-based platforms to provide India with digitised maps and to cue Indian missiles and combat aircraft to target co-ordinates. The BECA agreement also enables India to be able to receive advanced navigational aids and avionics on US-supplied aircraft. To date, the absence of such an agreement has affected the navigational and flight management systems that India could procure for its US-sourced C-17, C-130J and P8-I aircraft.

BECA agreements function as umbrella agreements wherein various components of United States Department of Defence/National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency and their Indian counterparts would conclude subsidiary arrangements on a one-time or semi-permanent basis for exchanges of specific types of data and data feeds. Examples include the exchange of data for a particular exercise or agreement, the mapping of data to produce aeronautical and nautical charts, data mapping to support a particular defence system, or an agreement to conduct a joint hydrographic survey in an area that is uncharted.

Another important operational advancement emanating from the Quad initiative will be co-operation on the Coalition Information Sharing Network, or the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS), which is a collection of classified coalition networks, known as enclaves, that supports the US combat commands throughout the world, including the US Pacific, Central, Africa and European commands.

If the Quad 2.0 does evolve along the lines of NATO, there is a chance that the CENTRIXS will be extended to the US Africa Command to oversee operations in the western Indian Ocean.

On the other hand, Quad 2.0 will aid force structure re-arrangement and active fleet co-operation. It is understood that combined anti-submarine operations were initiated given the rising number of Chinese submarines operating in the Indo-Pacific. India and the US decided last year to enhance their co-operation on submarine detection and tracking in the Indian Ocean.

Similarly, another important aspect that could be fast-tracked with closer co-operation is India’s quest to get US technology for its aircraft carriers. It is understood that the Indian Navy’s request for the supply of the Electromagnetic Launch System (EMLAS) built by General Atomics for its future aircraft carriers has been reportedly accepted by the US administration.

Due to its flexible architecture, EMALS can launch a wide variety of aircraft weights and can be used on a variety of platforms with differing catapult configurations.

India is also expected to undertake joint projects with Japan and the United States to install sound surveillance sensors in the vicinity of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This is an important element of controlling the Indian Ocean operations of China’s Southern Fleet and to monitor its activities. Australia could join in the installation of the sound sensors as it will help Canberra to project its influence in the Indian Ocean and, in so doing, aid in tracking the movements of Chinese submarines in the wider Indo-Pacific.

The co-operation between India, the United States and Japan in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands may not stop with the installation of acoustic systems and a joint project to lay an undersea optical fibre communications cable from Chennai to Port Blair could eventuate. Once completed, the network is likely to be integrated with the existing US-Japan “Fish Hook” network that was created specifically to monitor the Chinese navy’s submarine activity in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean Rim. Australia will no doubt watch such developments with interest. It is possible that Indonesia may also choose to contribute to the “Fish Hook” network in the future.

The proposed Quadrilateral Security Initiative 2.0 will increase co-operation at the operational level between Australia, India, Japan and the United States, especially in terms of anti-submarine warfare capabilities.


Whatever other claims may be made about it, the proposed Quad 2.0 is primarily aimed at negating what is felt to be China’s growing belligerence in the Indo-Pacific.

It envisages operational and strategic co-operation between India, the United States, Japan and Australia. Perhaps most importantly for the future, it also allows for further co-operation with such other regional actors as France, Vietnam and Indonesia.


[1] Heuser, B., (2017), ‘Regina Maris and the Command of the Sea: The Sixteenth Century Origins of Modern Maritime Strategy’, Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 40, № 1-2, pp. 225-62.

About the Author

Balaji Chandramohan is Editor of the ‘Asia for World Security Network’ and a correspondent for the Auckland-based newspaper, Indian Newslink. He is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party in India and the New Zealand Labour Party.

Any opinions or views expressed in this paper are those of the individual author, unless stated to be those of Future Directions International.

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