Quad officials discuss possible leaders’ summit in September

Quad officials discuss possible leaders’ summit in September

The four heads of state are likely to be in New York for the UN General Assembly

Senior officials of Australia, India, Japan, U.S. met on a video conference on Thursday for the first Quad meeting since March, when the leaders of the grouping had decided on a number of initiatives including cooperation on countering the Coronavirus pandemic. As The Hindu had reported earlier, an “in-person” Quad Foreign Ministerial meeting, as well as the possibility of a Quad summit involving PM Narendra Modi, U.S. President Biden, Australian PM Scott Morrison and Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga are being discussed for September this year.

“The [officials] welcomed the opportunity to continue regular consultations at the ministerial, senior official, and working levels and to hold a second Leaders’ Summit this fall,” a U.S. State Department statement said.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson declined to comment on the date of the meetings. Diplomatic sources confirmed that all four leaders are expected to attend the UN General Assembly meeting in New York this year, and discussions are underway for them to meet in Washington during that visit, but their travels and the summit is contingent on the COVID situations in each of the four countries.

During the meeting, Quad country officials talked about the decision to launch working groups on other areas of emerging technologies and climate change, and “exchanged views” on regional issues such as East and South China seas, where the Chinese navy has had conflicts over territorial rights with other countries, North Korean actions, and military rule in Myanmar.

Making a particular mention of the Quad as a grouping of “four democracies”, the U.S. statement said officials discussed “strategic challenges confronting the region, countering disinformation, promoting democracy and human rights”, and, in a veiled reference to China, said they would “support countries vulnerable to coercive actions in the Indo-Pacific region.”

According to a statement released by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the officials, including Vani Rao, Joint Secretary (Americas) and Naveen Srivastava, Additional Secretary (East Asia), from the MEA and their counterparts also deliberated on Quadrilateral cooperation in the areas of “quality infrastructure, maritime security, counter-terrorism, cyber security, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief toward the achievement of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” A special emphasis was made their support for the “centrality” for the ASEAN grouping of South East Asian countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

In particular, they discussed plans to cooperate on COVID vaccines, as outlined during the virtual leaders’ summit earlier this year, for one billion Johnson and Johnson vaccines to be produced in India by 2022, funded by the U.S. and distributed by Japan and Australia in South East Asia. Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya announced last Saturday that India had approved J&J vaccines for Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) in the country, but the company said there was no timelines for delivery of the U.S.-made vaccines, nor for local production, which are understood to be held up over differences on an indemnity clause. India has not agreed to the demand by U.S. manufacturers for a sovereign Indian waiver of liability for their vaccines.

An MEA statement said the officials reviewed the Quad vaccine initiative announced in March “with the objective of enhancing vaccine production and equitable access,” but didn’t add any details on progress in the effort thus far.

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