Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga came together this evening in a virtual meeting of the leaders of the “Quad” group of nations. “Great to see you, PM Modi,” President Biden said as the two leaders met for the first time since the latter took over as US President. PM Modi, in his opening remarks, said the four countries were united by their democratic values. He also listed the agenda for the meeting, which includes vaccines and climate change.
“We are united by our democratic values, and our commitment to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. Our agenda today – covering areas like vaccines, climate change and emerging technologies – makes the Quad a force for global good,” said the Prime Minister.
The first summit – seen as part of efforts to balance China’s growing military and economic power – will focus on a “free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region” as well as on ensuring affordable and safe vaccine against coronavirus, the Foreign Ministry said earlier.
Financing agreements to support an increase in manufacturing capacity for coronavirus vaccines in India are also on the table, a senior US administration official told news agency Reuters. India is the world’s biggest vaccine maker.
A key focus at the summit will be the vaccine initiative under which anti-Covid vaccines will be developed in the US, manufactured in India, financed by Japan and US, and supported by Australia. The agreements will focus particularly on Indian vaccine manufacturers for American pharma giants Novavax Inc and Johnson & Johnson, a US official said.
India has urged the three other Quad nations to invest in its vaccine production capacity, a government source told Reuters, to counter China’s vaccine diplomacy.
The four countries plan to establish a series of working groups that will focus on climate change, critical and emerging technologies, including working to set technology standards and norms and jointly developing some of the critical technologies of the future, officials said.
Another point of discussion during the meeting will be on securing rare earth metals that are essential to the production of electric car motors and other products, the Nikkei newspaper reported.
According to the report, China currently produces nearly 60 per cent of the world’s rare earth metals, and its market power has posed supply concerns.
The virtual engagement will lay the groundwork for an in-person meeting later in the year, a senior US official told news agency Reuters this week.
PM Modi and his Japanese counterpart spoke on the phone on Tuesday. The Japanese government said Mr Yoshihide expressed serious concerns regarding “unilateral attempts” to change the status quo in the East and South China Sea, in a clear reference to China.
The “Quad” or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is an informal strategic forum of the US, Japan, Australia, and India. It was revived in 2017 as a buffer against Beijing. The Quad remains a strong focus for the four nations that have each had conflicts with China in recent years. In November, the Quad nations came together to participate in a two-phase joint military exercise, Malabar 2020, in the Bay of Bengal and in the Arabian Sea.