New Delhi: The first ever Quad summit between India, Japan, Australia and US leaders’ will take place virtually on Friday (March 12) marking a significant geopolitical moment.

For the summit Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian PM Scott Morrison, Japan’s PM Yoshihide Suga and US President Joseph R Biden will participate.

In a statement, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said, “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,” it said.

The COVID-19 vaccine will be a key focus, with leaders discussing ongoing efforts to combat the pandemic and explore opportunities for collaboration in ensuring safe, equitable and affordable vaccines in the Indo-Pacific region, the release mentioned.

So far, three foreign ministers’ level conversations have taken place, two of them physical meetings — one in New York in 2019, another in Tokyo last year and one telephonic conversation just last month.

Last month’s telephonic conversation between the four foreign ministers — US State Secretary Blinken, Japan FM Motegi Toshimitsu, Australian FM Marise Payne and EAM Dr S Jaishankar saw key focus being on Myanmar.

Last week, Australian PM Scott Morrison confirming plans of the meet said, “I am looking forward to that first gathering of quad leaders. It will be the first-ever gathering of quad leaders. I already had bilateral discussions with Narendra Modi and Yoshihide Suga, the PM of Japan and PM of India.”

He said that such meets would become a feature of the Indo Pacific engagement but it will not have a big bureaucracy, with a big secretariat. “It will be four leaders, four countries working together constructively for the peace, prosperity, and stability of the Indo pacific,” he said.

The Quad is seen very suspiciously by China which it has termed as “Asian Nato” something that has been dismissed by the grouping.

The dialogue was first initiated in 2007 by the then Japanese PM Shinzo Abe but lost support only to re-emerge in 2017 when leaders of the grouping had met. Last year saw Australia being invited to Malabar exercises which saw all four Quad countries coming under one umbrella for naval exercises in the Indian ocean.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Quad plus meetings happened at the foreign secretary-level to exchange best practices. 

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