Secondly, immediately before and during the Cold War, NATO nations were perceived by the United States to be facing immediate threats to their territorial integrity and political stability, exacerbated by the formidable Soviet military presence near their borders, coupled with the USSR’s strong hybrid capabilities. The potential for rapid military deployment and communist takeover was arguably not unfounded, necessitating a treaty like NATO (Sayle, 2019). The Quad nations, however, have not faced such existential danger. Chinese military buildups and provocations have been isolated and confined to territorial disputes without threatening the very existence of democratic nations. While China's Belt and Road Initiative may be seen as a hybrid power measure to leverage geopolitical influence, the Quad nations have resisted it, and clear evidence of any hidden exploitative agenda remains elusive.
Thirdly, unlike the rapid escalations in Soviet and Russian foreign policy that led to the 1948 Communist coup d’état in Czechoslovakia, the 1961 Berlin Crisis, and the Russian invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, the PRC has shown restraint in materializing its territorial claims and has not been blamed for the involvement in regime change initiatives in the region. The assertiveness of Chinese foreign policy has not reached a level that threatens international peace and security in recent decades, in stark contrast to the actions of the Soviet Union and Russia, whose NATO has deterred.
This distinct political landscape has led to the fact that strategic cooperation between India, the United States, Australia, and Japan has historically been maintained through a functional framework of bilateral and multilateral agreements. This discourse of collaboration has been even more evident since the 2008 farewell of the Dialogue. In 2010, a diplomatic dispute occurred between Japan and the PRC, which involved a collision of military vessels in the disputed Senkaku / Diaoyudao Islands, culminating with the PRC’s proclamation of an air defense zone over the islands in 2013 (The European Parliament, 2021). China’s 2015 announcement to modernize its nuclear and conventional forces coincided with the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling on the illegality of the PRC’s claim of sovereignty over the South China Sea. In 2017, India and the PRC were embroiled in a border standoff in the disputed Doklam/Donglang region (Miglani & Blanchard, 2017). Concurrently, the Obama Administration’s announcement of the Pivot to Asia Strategy coincided with the 2011 trilateral security summit between the US, India, and Japan. In 2015, Japan became a permanent participant in the Malabar Exercise and was also engaged in the Exercise Talisman Saber, a biennial military maneuver between Australia and the US, following a military reform that allowed the nation to use its armed forces overseas for collective self-defense. Concurrently, Australia and India launched AUSINDEX, a biennial naval exercise. In 2016, the US and Indian heads of defense signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement. Such an increase in the regional security agreements, coupled with the revitalization of the Quad in 2017, may be seen as a step toward forming a collective deterrence framework, but it does not necessarily signify that the Quad is evolving into a collective security bloc akin to NATO.
First, the Dialogue still lacks a definitive agenda and an institutional framework of subordination and cooperation, and its participants do not hold any mutual, legally-binding obligations. This presents a stark contrast to NATO, whose members are still bound by the provisions stipulated in 1949. At present, there exists only limited political resolve to evolve the Quad into a comprehensive security alliance, in stark contrast to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which was explicitly established as such from the inception of the Treaty. Article 5 of the NATO Treaty unambiguously stipulates that an attack on one member state is considered an assault against all, and Article 6 further clarifies this obligation by confining it to the geographic scope of the Euro-Atlantic area. The undefined geographic scope of the Quad, as evidenced by the nature of dialogue discussions and military maneuvers of participating states, indicates that drawing parallels between it and NATO would be inappropriate.
In a 2019 survey by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), policymakers from each of the four Quad nations were asked to assess their level of support for the idea of the Quad possessing an institutional character. The results revealed divergent attitudes towards the formalization of the Quad, with Indian policymakers expressing strong opposition to the idea, while policymakers from the other nations demonstrated only mild to moderate support for the concept (Buchan, Rimland, 2020). At present, only the United States of America has demonstrated its willingness to support the idea of institutionalization of Quad, with the Trump Administration officials making a series of statements in favor of the idea of unity against the increasingly assertive Chinese foreign policy. However, this willingness is not steadfast and has not been long-standing, due to the rapidly fluctuating nature of the national interests of the United States. The 2022 U.S. National Security Strategy categorizes the Quad alongside the European Union, recognizing both as partners in sustainable development, energy infrastructure, and maritime security, without indicating any aspiration to institutionalize the former (NSS, 2022). Even if the institutionalization of the Quad is perceived as beneficial to the United States in the future, the durability of this view and its potential to garner bipartisan support within the United States remain questions to be answered.