The Quad and Submarine Cable Protection in the Indo-Pacific: Policy Recommendations

This policy brief analyzes the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) initiative on submarine cables in the Indo-Pacific and offers a timely roadmap as to how best to protect them. It first locates the significance of submarine cables for global connectivity and security, and then contextualizes the perception of threats to cables from malicious state or state-supported actors at a time of rising global tensions. Because of the unique challenges posed by cable vulnerabilities, including sabotage and espionage, the brief focuses on the impact of disruptions within the evolving geopolitical landscape as well as their recent securitization and provides actionable rather than aspirational recommendations for the Quad.

These include leasing cable repair ships, prioritizing existing subsea cable arrangements and collaborating with local operators to meet specific regional needs, and for the Quad to focus on achievable, collective maritime security initiatives rather than the pursuit of complex technology sharing at this stage. The aim is to recommend near-term, reachable goals that can demonstrate cooperation without straining the sensitive dynamics between Quad members, other stakeholders, and like-minded states. In doing so, the policy brief contributes to the existing literature on the Quad’s effectiveness, structure, and deterrent value.

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