The foreign minister-level talks assume significance as all four nations have either border or trade-related conflicts with China and are looking to tighten security cooperation to check Beijing’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
China, on the other hand, views “Quad” as a threat to its dominance in the region and says that the forum is an attempt by the US to create an Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) directly aimed at counterbalancing its interests.
In fact, Beijing’s “concerns” were validated by US deputy secretary of state Stephen E Biegun, who recently suggested that the informal defence alignment between the four nations could be the beginning of a Nato-style alliance in Asia.
But can a full-fledged military alliance in Asia take on an expansionist China?
After the US, China is the second-largest military spender in the world with a budget of roughly $261 billion in 2020, according to figures from SIPRI Military Expenditure Database.
Over the recent years, China has embarked on a massive modernisation drive which includes rapid development of aircraft carriers, stealth aircraft and modern naval frigates.
And while regional players like India, Japan and Australia are hiking their own defence budgets to balance the equation, China’s military spending far outweighs that of all its neighbours.
With US in the Quad equation and increasing military cooperation, the Indo-Pacific nations would hope to counter China’s ability to expand its presence in the region.
A formal Nato-like alliance, with an eye firmly on China’s ambitions, will also help the nations exert influence on waterways from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific.
Mike Green, an Asia expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that Quad meeting would serve as a warning to China and play to its fears that it might one day grow into a formalised grouping such as Nato which was formed to contain the Soviet Union.
(With inputs from agencies)