British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is looking at the possibility of the UK joining the Quad as part of its efforts to find a new global role in the wake of leaving the European Union.
The Times, London reports that Johnson, who had to cancel his plans to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade, is eager to strengthen trade, business as well as strategic ties with countries like India and Australia.
Johnson has also been pushing the idea that the G7 should be expanded to form a new grouping D10 that would include India, Australia and South Korea. The D in the new grouping's name would stand for democracy and it’s clearly intended as a counter to China’s militarisation of the South China Sea and expansionism in the Indian Ocean, even if that is not openly stated.
The Times said that the D10 formation has got the “thumbs up” from Kurt Campbell, who is US President Joe Biden’s “Asia tsar”. Campbell is also reportedly in favour of expanding the Quad, formally known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, as a way to send a message to China.
The Quad has so far focused on conducting naval exercises as part of efforts by its four members -- the US, India, Japan and Australia -- to move closer against China. However, it has not evolved into a military alliance like NATO in which all countries are supposed to rush to the aid of a country that is attacked.
The Royal Navy is planning a huge show-the-flag exercise next year by sending one of its largest flotilla of ships to Asia. But the navy has suffered from huge budget cuts and doesn’t have the resources to keep ships permanently in Asia. Currently, the UK has just one aircraft carrier and a second will be commissioned in 2023.
Johnson had to cancel his Republic Day trip to India due to the coronavirus situation but is looking at travelling here in the near future whenever the pandemic subsides and it becomes possible.
Britain engaging with the Quad in some form or other has been mooted for a while.
In December, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has identified India, regarded as a key security player in the region, as a “major strategic partner” in the post-Brexit era with the “rise of China” providing the context for closer strategic ties. Back in 2017, Japan said it was keen on persuading Britain and France to take “collaborative roles” in connection with the Quad.