First leaders' summit comes at a time when the US States is seeking to strengthen ties with key allies and India is looking to ramp up vaccine production capacity.
US President Joe Biden will hold one of the earliest virtual summits of his presidency with the Prime Ministers of India, Australia and Japan on Friday – signalling the critical importance of the four-way alliance of Quad that is often projected as a bulwark against China.
Confirming the historic summit, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will also participate in talks with President Biden in the first summit of the Quadrilateral framework leaders.
The leaders will discuss regional and global issues of shared interest, and exchange views on practical areas of cooperation towards maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. The summit will provide an opportunity to exchange views on contemporary challenges such as resilient supply chains, emerging and critical technologies, maritime security, and climate change, the MEA said in a statement.
Also high on the agenda will be ongoing efforts to combat Covid-19 pandemic and explore opportunities for collaboration in ensuring safe, equitable and affordable vaccines in the Indo-Pacific region. The summit assumes significance in view of the fact that the previous US administration under Donald Trump was keen on formalising the Quad to counter China's expansionist strategies in the region – and Biden seems intent on following the same policy in a more impactful way.
“That President Biden has made this one of his earliest multilateral engagements speaks to the importance that we place on close cooperation with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday.
Japan said that Suga spoke separately with PM Modi and voiced alarm about China's "unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and China Sea" as well as the status of rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that the Quad was well-equipped to deal with the world's "urgent challenges" but, asked about China, said, the format is "not about any single competitor."
The Quad meeting comes at a time when the United States is looking to strengthen ties with key allies as China takes an increasingly assertive foreign policy approach in the Indo-Pacific region – while India mounts an aggressive campaign to distribute Covid-19 vaccines around the world and has urged other Quad members to invest in its vaccine production capacity in a bid to counter China’s vaccine diplomacy. The summit follows talks on February 18 among the foreign ministers of the Quad when they pressed jointly for a restoration of democracy in Myanmar after the military ousted democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1.
The Quad was launched in 2007 by Japan's then prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was alarmed at China's growing assertiveness around Asia.