Senior officials of the Quad countries on Thursday explored collaboration to ensure resilient supply chains and in the areas of emerging and critical technologies to move their cooperation to a newer level.
India’s External Affairs Ministry, in a statement after the virtual meeting, said: “The Officials discussed issues of common interest and explored possibilities of collaboration in resilient supply chains, emerging and critical technologies, maritime security, cyber security, counter-terrorism, infrastructure and connectivity, higher education, climate change and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”
The overdependence on China has been exposed during the Covid-19 pandemic as the world faced critical shortages due to supply chain problems while China was in a race to gain an edge in critical technologies.
A statement from Tokyo said that Vani Rao, the Joint Secretary for the Americas, and Naveen Srivastava, the Additional Secretary for East Asia, represented India at the meeting.
The other participants in the meeting included Richard Buangan, the acting senior official for the East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Dean Thompson, the acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, representing the US; Edo Kazuya, Japan’s Deputy Director General for Asian and Oceania, and Justin Hayhurst, Australia’s Deputy Secretary for the Indo-Pacific, it added.
It also said that the Quad officials discussed holding an in-person summit of the Quad leaders by the end of this year.
Thursday’s meeting followed up the virtual Quad summit of Prime Ministers Narendra Modi, Yoshihide Sugo of Japan and Scott Morrison of Australia, and US President Joe Biden held in March.
At the summit, India was given the key role of producing one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines for distribution in the region under a programme that will be financed by Japan and the US, with Australia providing the distribution logistics.
The statement from India on the meeting of the senior diplomats said that they reviewed the progress of the Quad vaccine programme and discussed “the wide-ranging impact of Covid-19 in the Indo-Pacific region, and the importance of collaborative efforts to contain the pandemic, ensure health security and a quick economic recovery”.
The situation in India’s neighbour Myanmar, where the military has blocked the democratically elected civilian leaders and jailed them, also figured during the meeting.
A statement on the meeting by the US State Department said the crisis was discussed and that they “reaffirmed the Quad’s strong support for ASEAN centrality”.
Taking up topics of Washington’s priorities, the statement said they discussed ways to advance cooperation in countering disinformation, promoting democracy and human rights.
None of the three statements on the meeting named China, whose threats to the region and beyond are the impetus for the four democracies to increase their level of cooperation.
But the China factor was noted in the US statement which spoke of “supporting countries vulnerable to coercive actions in the Indo-Pacific region”.
The statement from Tokyo noted that the situation in the East and South China Seas was discussed.
China has been carrying out belligerent actions directed at Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia in that area.
Japan’s statement added that the vision for a “free and open” Indo-Pacific was gaining momentum beyond the region in the post-Covid world.
“This vision has spread in the international community, including ASEAN and Europe,” it said, adding that the officials “reaffirmed the importance of broadening cooperation with more countries for its further achievement”.
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)