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Quad presses ahead with practical cooperation on vaccines after leaders’ summit

The first summit of Quad leaders last week saw the grouping definitively move to a concrete geopolitical fixture, with PM Modi describing it as a “force for global good” and an “important pillar of stability” in the Indo-Pacific. The Quad is shifting beyond an exclusive security dimension, exemplified by its ambitious target of producing a billion doses of anti-Covid vaccine. Under the project India will manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid shot with financing from the US and Japan, while Australia will use its logistics capabilities to ship the vaccines to Southeast Asian and Pacific countries.

The vaccine project is a good test for Quad governments to enhance their coordination, giving rise to co-operative structures. While all the Quad members agree that China’s aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific needs to be balanced, operationalising that principle will require several practical steps. Even now there’re multiple issues on which Quad members have different perspectives. For example, the crisis in Myanmar is viewed through different prisms in Washington and Delhi given the latter’s long relationship with the Myanmar military. Perhaps India and the US can play ‘good cop bad cop’ here to bring Myanmar back to the path of democracy.

Similarly, when Japanese PM Suga spoke to Modi before the summit about China’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo in East and South China Seas, Hong Kong and Xinjiang, New Delhi’s readout of the conversation was silent on these issues. Thus, work remains for Quad nations to align their priorities. That said, the Quad evolving as a security-plus platform has certainly irked China which has been saying that India is a “negative asset” for Brics and SCO. Fair promotion for a forum earlier dismissed as “sea foam” by Beijing.

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This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.



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