Neoliberal institutionalists frequently see regional organisations such as the EU, ASEAN or the EAS as expressions of the desire for economic integration, political cooperation and the resolution of collective action problems. In this formulation, the creation of inclusive regional identities is seen as one of the potentially desirable consequences of institution-building. The Indo-Pacific, by contrast, has since its inception been driven by a rather old-fashioned concern with the balance of power in a part of the world in which China is once again playing a dominant and destabilising role. We argue that realists still have much to tell us about the material forces that are not only transforming the region—however, it is defined—but also which underpin the rise to prominence of the Indo-Pacific idea in particular. The so-called ‘Quad’ countries are both the main drivers of the Indo-Pacific concept and a clear manifestation of its underlying goals and principles. In such circumstances, we argue, the Indo-Pacific is unlikely to reproduce even the rather modest levels of institutionalisation achieved by other organisations, primarily because this vision of the region is one that is not intended to address the sorts of collective action problems neoliberal institutionalists highlight. On the contrary, the Indo-Pacific rescales the region to include India and strategically aligns certain regional states in an old-fashioned quasi-alliance to the strategic threat posed by China.