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May 28, 2024 Special Dispatch No. 11360

From 'Quad' To 'Squad' – Renowned Manila-Based Expert Heydarian: The New 'Squad' Of The U.S., Australia, Philippines, And Japan 'Is Likely The Beginning Of A New "Asian NATO"'

May 28, 2024
China, Philippines | Special Dispatch No. 11360

As tensions in the South China Sea increase, the alliance of the U.S.-Australia-Philippines-Japan, referred to as the "Squad," is being strengthened and prioritized over the "Quad," a U.S.-led grouping comprising also Australia, Japan, and India.

Russian media outlet Sputnik India reported that the Biden administration has "run out of patience" with India over its refusal "to fall in line" with the U.S. on the Ukraine conflict, "unlike the other Quad partners." "Despite a nearly four-year long border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh, New Delhi has been viewed as wary of joining the U.S.-led alliance system, the primary goal of which is to contain Beijing's expanding influence," Sputnik wrote.

Yet, Pravin Sawhney, an Indian strategic affairs analyst, told Sputnik India that the Quad continues to remain "important" for the U.S. "But, what appears to have happened in the American thinking is that the Western Pacific Ocean Region has become the top US priority. The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is now their second priority, which is largely due to huge volumes of trade passing through the IOR," Sawhney stated. The Indian analyst added that the Quad focuses primarily on the Indian Ocean, while the Squad is catering to the "hotspots of Taiwan and South China Sea," where "risks of a conflict with China" are "higher." However, Sawhney explained that India is playing a "combat-support role" in the Quad, as opposed to "direct combat role" which is "donned by US treaty allies such as Japan, Australia, the Philippines and even South Korea for that matter."[1]

On May 7, 2024, renowned Filipino expert Richard Heydarian published an article in the Philippines media outlet, Enquirer, titled "The Squad: Philippines And 'Big 3' Allies," stressing that, "under the guise of 'multi-alignment,'" India is bent "on pursuing its own 'great power moment.'" "Now contrast this with the Philippines, which has consistently condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine in relevant UN votes; happens to be the US' third ally with significant defense entwinement vis-à-vis Australia and Japan; and is, crucially, more interested in preserving the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific than seeking a new 'multipolar order' that could inadvertently aid regional hegemony of the likes of China, Russia, or India," Heydarian wrote, adding that the Squad is "likely the beginning of a new 'Asian NATO' with 21st-century characteristics if China continues with its hegemonic behavior."


Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin , Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles, Japanese Minister of Defense Kihara Minoru, and Secretary of National Defense of Philippines Gilbert Teodoro conduct a multilateral press briefing at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command headquarters, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, May 2, 2024. (Source: DoD)

Below is Heydarian's article:[ii]

Philippines is "Becoming The Only Southeast Asian Nation To Openly Defy China's Hegemonic Ambitions"

"The Indo-Pacific region is fast emerging as the center of global geopolitical gravity. And the Philippines is right at the heart of this seismic transformation in the 21st century by, inter alia, becoming the only Southeast Asian nation to openly defy China's hegemonic ambitions and, crucially, joining the new 'squad' of the United States, Australia, and Japan in recent months.

"Only two years ago, the place of our nation in the evolving regional landscape was a big question mark. The shallowness of our strategic discourse was on plain display during a presidential debate – the only one the eventual winner bothered to attend – where foreign policy was an unusual area of focus. Among the salient issues was the emergence of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, better known as the 'Quad,' composed of Australia, Japan, the US, and India.

"Around the same time, I headed to Europe for a series of engagements from Berlin to Paris. My primary destination, however, was the Munich Security Conference, where I raised a question about the nature of the Quad during a panel that featured top officials from all four powers.

"Curiously, the panel was opened by the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who was ostensibly still in a foul mood on the heels of the major diplomatic rupture between Paris and Canberra over the latter's abrupt cancellation of a multibillion submarine deal with the French Naval Group in favor of Anglo-American alternative under the AUKUS (Australia-UK-US) alliance.

"Both the cadence and content of Le Drian's speech (especially when listened to in French) evinced Paris' displeasure at the overall state of the trans-Atlantic alliance. What I didn't anticipate, however, was the unusually self-assured if not pugnacious response by India's chief diplomat, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who seemingly took offense to my question.

"In particular, I asked if Quad is the new 'Asian NATO.' I had expected a categorical rejection from the panelists, but not the kind of influencer-style riposte from the formerly soft-spoken diplomat. 'I would urge you not to slip into that lazy analogy of an Asian-NATO. It isn't because there are three countries who are treaty allies. We are not a treaty ally. It doesn't have a treaty, a structure, a secretariat, it's a kind of 21st-century way of responding to a more diversified, dispersed world,' he thundered in response to my question. 'Quad is a grouping of four countries who have common interests, common values, great deal of comfort, who happen to be located in the four corners of the Indo-Pacific,' he added, leaving little room for further discussion for the rest of the panel, who opted to just stay silent following the spirited intervention by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's global spokesman.

"The true significance of Jaishankar's spirited intervention came to light a few days later when Russia invaded Ukraine. Instead of siding with fellow democracies in the West or a fellow post-colonial nation (Ukraine), India refused to condemn Moscow's actions in the United Nations and even doubled down on its trade with and, most especially, energy imports from Russia at huge discounts."

Unlike India, The Philippines Is "Interested In Preserving The Rule Of Law In The Indo-Pacific" Rather Than "Seeking A New 'Multipolar Order' That Could Inadvertently Aid Regional Hegemony"

"When confronted by the West over the issue, Jaishankar accused them of hypocrisy and insisted on India's developmental imperatives. He often also brandished the Global South card, presenting India as a leader of the non-Western world seeking a new multipolar order. In short, there is neither an 'alliance' with the West nor any 'alignment' in terms of values and vision for a rules-based international order.

"Under the guise of 'multi-alignment,' India – after spending decades on the margins of the global power play – is bent on pursuing its own 'great power moment.' Now contrast this to the Philippines, which has consistently condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine in relevant UN votes; happens to be the US' third ally with significant defense entwinement vis-à-vis Australia and Japan; and is, crucially, more interested in preserving the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific than seeking a new 'multipolar order' that could inadvertently aid regional hegemony of the likes of China, Russia, or India.

"The joint patrols among the four allies [Philippines, Japan, U.S. and Australia] last month[3] and the recently concluded meeting of defense ministers from the US, Australia, Japan, and the Philippines[4] is likely the beginning of a new 'Asian NATO' with 21st-century characteristics if China continues with its hegemonic behavior."

 

[1] Sputniknews.in/20240508/has-the-us-replaced-quad-with-squad-7320183.html, May 8, 2024.

[2] Opinion.inquirer.net/173488/the-squad-philippines-and-big-3-allies, May 7, 2024.

[3] English.kyodonews.net/news/2024/04/f4951e0621b7-japan-us-australia-philippines-hold-drill-in-south-china-sea.html#google_vignette, April 8, 2024. See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 11309, Chinese Media Outlet Xinhua: 'The South China Sea Has Become The Battleground Of Big Power Rivalry Under The U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy,' May 3, 2024; MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 11274, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Military Outlet Examines U.S. Diplomacy In East Asia Following White House Meeting Of U.S. And Philippines Presidents, Japanese Prime Minister, April 12, 2024.

[4] Defense.gov/News/Releases/Release/Article/3765061/joint-readout-from-australia-japan-philippines-united-states-defense-ministers/, May 3, 2024.

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