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On Quad agenda today: ‘free, open’ Indo-Pacific, maritime security

This will be Modi’s first meeting with Biden, after the new US administration assumed office in January this year. They have spoken over the telephone twice since November, when it became clear that Biden had won the US elections.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: March 12, 2021 6:54:30 pm
The foreign ministers of the Quad grouping have met thrice so far, twice in-person, and once virtually. (File/Representational)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison will meet, through virtual mode, for the first ever Quadrilateral grouping’s leaders’ summit on Friday, at 7 pm IST.

This will be Modi’s first meeting with Biden, after the new US administration assumed office in January this year. They have spoken over the telephone twice since November, when it became clear that Biden had won the US elections.

The foreign ministers of the Quad grouping have met thrice so far, twice in-person, and once virtually.

Among the issues that are likely to be discussed at the leaders’ meeting are: supply of vaccines across the world, collaborating on building a reliable rare-earth supply chain, joining hands on climate change, and securing free and open access to the Indo-Pacific region.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement that 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 statement said.

“The leaders will discuss ongoing efforts to combat Covid-19 pandemic and explore opportunities for collaboration in ensuring safe, equitable and affordable vaccines in the Indo-Pacific region,” it said.

Maritime security, cooperation on Indo-Pacific region, resilient supply chains, emerging and critical technologies — these are hot-button issues aimed at countering China.

The Quad grouping was revived in 2017, and it has been re-invigorated in the past few years, in the face of belligerence by China.

While China’s proactive and assertive activities in the Indo-Pacific region have worried many, these four countries have set the stage, and now more countries – including Germany, France and UK – have framed their strategies on Indo-Pacific.

To counter Beijing’s dominance in the rare-earth supply chain – it controls 60 pc of global rare-earth and is crucial to manufacturing electronic goods, smartphones, batteries among other things – the Quad grouping is considering cooperation on securing these supply chain. This comes under the rubric of “resilient supply chain”, according to the Indian government’s agenda item.

India brings to the table the ability to be the “pharmacy to the world”, as it has already supplied 583 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccines to 69 countries, across every continent, so far.

Among the possible ideas would be to set up India as a manufacturing hub and supply the vaccines to the world, and that could involve setting up a fund for developing countries. There are possible financing agreements to enhance vaccine manufacturing capacity in India.

From the Biden administration’s perspective, the focus could be on the issue of climate change, for which India will be a key partner along with others. And the US is likely to make it one of the top items on its agenda, as the world moves towards a post-pandemic financial recovery that would be “sustainable”, sources said.

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