Leaders of US, India, Australia and Japan will take part in the first-ever summit of “Quad” nations on Friday. The grouping brings together ‘four like-minded countries’ that support an open Indo-Pacific region, even as China aggressively expands in the region. Mint decodes:

How was the Quad grouping formed?

The US, Japan, India and Australia came together in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami to provide succour to devastated countries. Later, officials of the four countries met in 2007 “to look at issues of common interest.” During an India visit, then Japanese PM Shinzo Abe unveiled the idea of “the Confluence of the Two Seas” that gave birth to concept of the Indo-Pacific. A decade later officials of the four countries met in the Philippines in 2017 to talk about an aggressively rising China. In 2019, the foreign ministers of the Quad countries met in Washington for the first time.

What’s the key agenda of the leaders’ meet?

Maritime security, economic cooperation, supply chain resilience, the covid-19 pandemic, post pandemic world order and climate change are expected to be on the table. As per an unnamed senior US official, the Quad could announce financing agreements to boost India’s covid-19 vaccine manufacturing capacity . “We have a Quad meeting on Friday, and I expect we’ll see something on vaccines coming out of that summit. There are other things that we’re working on to make sure that we are a leading international actor in creating greater access to vaccines,” said US secretary of state Antony Blinken recently.

Anti-China front

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Anti-China front

How will the Beijing factor come into play?

Beijing has reinforced its expansionist credentials—from the Senkaku islands dispute with Japan to the LAC standoff with India. Add into this mix Beijing’s slapping of trade sanctions on Australia for calling for a probe into origins of the virus. China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday said it hoped the move would promote peace in the region and not “the opposite.”

What other issues can be  taken  up  at  the  meet?

Supply chain resilience has been a key talking point that has emerged since China closed down its factories abruptly in the early stages of the pandemic. India, Japan and Australia have already started talks on the subject. Japan was among the first to announce incentives for firms relocating from China. On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the summit plans to announce financing agreements to boost vaccine manufacturing capacity in India. The aim is to reduce delays and speed up vaccination across globe.

Can technology be a crucial talking point?

Discussions on resilience in supply chains cover ways to limit China from becoming a dominant player in semiconductor chip-making. The US has been the industry leader for decades and China has been a net importer. But, the latter has been working to cut reliance on the US and set itself up as a global tech leader. Joe Biden’s order last month calling for a review of supply chains signalled a decline in US manufacturing capacity. China’s 5G dominance could also be a major talking point.

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