NEW DELHI — The newly launched Australia-India-Japan-U.S. "Quadrilateral Initiative" has raised China's hackles, but its direction is still undecided owing to differing perceptions within the group over what its aims and objectives ought to be.

The quad, whose real architect is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is founded on the concept of democratic peace. This group of four held its inaugural meeting May 25 on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) gathering in Manila.

It is well documented in the international-relations literature that established democracies rarely go to war with each other, even though democratic governments may not be more wedded to peace than autocracies. Leaders in free nations have little political space to wage war against another democracy. This has led some scholars to contend that democratic peace is the closest thing we have to a law in international politics.