Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be meeting four of his counterparts virtually on Friday for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. While India, US, Australia and Japan have been informally grouped in such a manner for over a decade, this is the first time that the top leaders of each nation will be participating.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi will participate in the first Leaders’ Summit of the Quadrilateral Framework, along with Australian PM Scott Morrison, Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga, and President of USA Joe Biden, being held virtually on 12th March 2021," the PIB tweeted earlier today.
While details have not been released, a PIB press note says that the leaders will discuss "regional and global issues of shared interest" and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 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, the report adds.
"The Leaders will discuss 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," PIB adds.
Adding a few more details, the Japanese news agency Kyodo in a report from Washington quoting people familiar with the agenda, said: "The leaders plan to announce financial support to boost production capacity for vaccines in India, seen as part of efforts to counter China's growing influence, which has been offering free shots to countries in Southeast Asia and Africa."
Over the years, the Quad's efforts have been interpreted by some as a way of 'containing' China's growing influence. Indeed, former President Donald Trump had been keen on formalising the grouping to counter China's expansion and aggression in the region. Even as India remains locked in a border dispute with China for nearly a year now, the former US President had repeatedly criticised China for its alleged role in the spread of COVID-19.
The timing of the meeting, so soon after Biden assumed office, has also prompted speculation. White House Spokesperson Jan Psaki remained somewhat non-committal, stating that the conversation was expected to be about a wide range of topics and "not focused on China".
"Of course, China is a topic on the minds of many leaders in countries, but we expect they will talk about the climate crisis, about economic cooperation, about addressing COVID-19, a range of issues and discussions," reports quoted her as saying.
(With inputs from agencies)