Despite cancellation of the Quad summit, grouping continues to prove its worth in the region, say experts
While Australia will not be hosting the Quad summit after all, analysts believe the cancellation is likely to have little influence on the alliance in the long term, and that it is better for the US to deal with its domestic issues first.
SYDNEY: The Quad summit that was to take place in Sydney next week might be cancelled, but the grouping - a partnership among Australia, India, Japan and the United States - continues to prove its worth in the region, experts said.
The meeting will now take place on the sidelines of the G7 meeting in Japan, after US President Joe Biden decided to cut short his trip to Asia and return to Washington for negotiations on the debt ceiling.
Last-minute plans for Mr Biden to address both houses of parliament in Canberra, as well as talks with South Pacific leaders in neighbouring Papua New Guinea have, however, had to be put on ice.
The Quad, which has been embraced by both sides of politics in Australia as part of the Indo-Pacific security architecture, is very important for the country, said Professor Rory Medcalf, head of the Australian National Security College.
“It provides a kind of network for us in the region. It is not simply about dependence on the United States or indeed, if you like, capitulating to Chinese influence. The Quad proves that Australia can do smart diplomacy as a middle power with democratic partners but in a way that stabilises the region,” he said.
Former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who played a key role in helping to forge the Quad, called it one of the most important advances in Australia’s security since Canberra signed an alliance with the US.
“That’s a very strong statement. I’m not sure the current government would go quite so far, but it’s very important in terms of enmeshing the role of the US in the region, achieving greater convergence with India and also partnering with Japan,” said director of the Southeast Asia Programme at think tank Lowy Institute Susannah Patton.
NEED FOR US TO DEAL WITH DOMESTIC ISSUES
It is better for the US to deal with its domestic issues first, analysts said.
It has been said repeatedly by various theorists and politicians that foreign policy starts at home, said Professor of International Relations and Political Science Aurel Braun.
“If you are going to be powerful abroad, you need to be strong at home. And clearly, the crisis over the potential debt ceiling, the need to resolve that between the Republicans and the Democrats, is a crucial one,” Prof Braun from the University of Toronto told CNA’s Asia First on Friday (May 19).
“The United States cannot afford to default. It sends the wrong kind of message.”
He added the Biden administration needs to move on that very quickly to find a compromise “so they can focus on those foreign policy issues that are really pressing internationally and not allow domestic factors to overwhelm the ability of the largest democratic country to act in an effective way internationally”.
Mr Biden and congressional leaders including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy have held two rounds of face-to-face talks to try and reach agreement on a deal to raise the US borrowing limit and allow the country to pay for its existing obligations.
LITTLE INFLUENCE ON ALLIANCE
While Australia will not be hosting the Quad summit after all, analysts believe the cancellation is likely to have little influence on the alliance in the long term.
Even China, whose dominance the Quad aims to deter, is beginning to accept that the Quad is here to stay, noted Prof Medcalf.
He added that it has been “quite reassuring” for him as an Australian analyst that in recent years, there is increasing acceptance by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in recent years that the Quad is part of the multi-polarity of the region that can put limits on Chinese power without provoking conflict.
Even so, there are fears Mr Biden’s “no show” in Sydney could undermine Australia’s faith in its relationship with the US, with local media reporting that the cancellation might raise questions about the reliability of the US as a regional ally.