Quad leaders all set to roll out COVID-19 vaccine initiative at historic summit
New Delhi, Mar 12: The most significant among the deliverables envisaged in the historic summit of leaders of the Quad countries is a coronavirus vaccine initiative that will allow new manufacturing capacity to be added in India for export to the Indo-Pacific region, sources said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will join US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the first summit of the Quad leaders which will be held virtually this evening.
Under the initiative to contain the coronavirus pandemic, it is envisaged that vaccines will be developed in the US, manufactured in India, financed by Japan and US, and supported by Australia, the sources said.
The leaders will also 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, they said. The summit will provide an opportunity to exchange views on contemporary issues such as post-pandemic recovery, resilient supply chains, emerging and critical technologies, maritime security, and climate change, they added.
According to the sources, the vaccine initiative will allow new manufacturing capacity to be added in India for exports to the Indo-Pacific region and it will not impinge on the country's existing manufacturing capacities.
They said the pooling of individual capacities and strengths by Quad countries is aimed at expediting global vaccine delivery and it will help meet the demand-supply gap, focusing on the Indo-Pacific region. They said India's role in the 'Quad Vaccine Initiative' will project and re-inforce the country's credentials as a trusted, reliable manufacturer and supplier of quality vaccines.
"It will appreciably expand our 'Vaccine Maitri' effort. It will strengthen India's standing as the 'pharmacy of the world', as a critical node in global health supply chains, and as a selfless contributor to global health security," said a source.
The sources said the impact of the 'Quad Vaccine Initiative' on overcoming the pandemic will be noteworthy as the bloc's model of enlightened, humanitarian and collective action through supply of vaccines will also offer a template for peace, cooperation and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
The genesis of the Quad lies in 2004 when the four countries formed a "core group" for a joint response to the Indian Ocean tsunami to undertake rescue and relief operations. In many senses, that pioneering effort still determines the core identity of Quad, and the instinct for collective welfare and security for the people of the Indo-Pacific.
The salience of the Quad has run in parallel with the emergence of the Indo-Pacific as a key strategic region. With a growing similarity of assessments about geopolitical dynamics in the region, in 2017, the Quad dialogue resumed at the official level.
In November 2017, the four countries gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the Quad to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence. The four Quad member countries have been resolving to uphold a rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific amid growing Chinese assertiveness in the region.
India's approach to the Indo-Pacific was enunciated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in 2018. Inclusiveness, openness and ASEAN centrality and unity lie at the heart of India's Indo-Pacific vision. The 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a key stakeholder in the Indo-Pacific region.
The strategic significance of the Indo-Pacific was also acknowledged by the US in 2018 when it renamed the US Pacific Command (PACOM) as INDO-PACOM. Several European countries too have published their Indo-Pacific strategies, in recognition of the political and economic weight of the region. The first foreign ministerial meeting of Quad countries was held in New York on September 26, 2019 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar participated in the second Quad foreign ministerial meeting in Tokyo on October 6. The third Quad foreign ministerial meeting took place virtually on February 18. The meeting took place within a month of the Biden administration assuming office.
Earlier this year, for the first time the four countries appointed Sherpas to coordinate Quad-related issues. Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla is India's Sherpa. The Biden administration recognised the significance of the Indo-Pacific region in its Interim National Security Strategic Guidance document.