Leaders of India, the United States, Japan, and Australia, who are part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), took part in the first virtual summit on Friday. The Quad group of the nations is also seen as part of an effort to counter China’s growing economic and military influence. This was also the first time Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US president Joe Biden, although virtually, since the new administration took charge after the US election in November last year.
Here are the key takeaways from the meeting:
The leaders from the four nations have decided to launch a mega vaccine initiative in which India will manufacture American vaccines with Japanese and US funding while Australia will provide the logistical support in the Indo-Pacific region.
The leaders said that they will combine their nations’ medical, scientific, financing, manufacturing and delivery, and development capabilities and establish a Quad vaccine experts group.
In the joint statement issued after the summit, the Quad leaders recognised that none could be safe as long as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, briefing the reporters on the summit in New Delhi, said India will use its manufacturing capacity to make US vaccines. “In today’s context, it is one of the most important initiatives. We are talking about huge investments in creating additional vaccine capacities in India for exports to countries in the Indo-Pacific region for their betterment. We are talking about producing a billion doses of vaccines by the end of 2020,” he said.
Free & open Indo-Pacific
During the summit, the four leaders also stressed for a free, open, and rule-based Indo-Pacific region that is "anchored by democratic values, rooted in international law to advance security and prosperity and unconstrained by coercion."
In a joint statement, the Quad leaders said: "We bring diverse perspectives and are united in a shared vision for the free and open Indo-Pacific. We strive for a region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion."
Earlier in the day, US President Joe Biden said that a free and open Indo-Pacific is essential for the future of each of the grouping's member countries, and the US is committed to ensuring the region is governed by international law and free of coercion.
The joint statement can also be seen in the light of China’s proactive and assertive activities in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.
Climate Change & Critical and Emerging Technology
The leaders also discussed and exchanged views on climate change, post-pandemic recovery, and emerging and critical technologies.
“Quad leaders recognize that a free, open, inclusive, and resilient Indo-Pacific requires that critical and emerging technology is governed and operates according to shared interests and values. In that spirit, we will convene a Critical and Emerging Technology Working Group, which will develop a statement of principles on technology design, development, and use; facilitate coordination on technology standards development, including between our national technology standards bodies and working with a broad range of partners,” a factsheet issued after the summit said.
Earlier, the Quad was set up by Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007 and then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh was part of the initial set up. However, in 2008, Singh said India was not part of any efforts against China and Australia had also left the group.
The Quad Summit has been revived in the backdrop of China’s increasing assertiveness in the region today. The meeting has been elevated to the highest level, departing from its earlier practice of meeting at the Foreign Ministers level. The Friday meeting was held for the first since 2017 in the ASEAN Summit.
The four leaders agreed that they will meet for an “in-person” summit by the end of the year. This could take place on the sidelines of a multilateral summit like the G-7 in the UK in June or the G-20 in Italy in October, or the US or another country.
(With inputs from PTI)