By Beatriz Pascual Macías
Washington, Sep 24 (EFE).- US President Joe Biden used the first face-to-face summit of the Quad group on Friday to consolidate it as a bulwark of democracy against Chinese expansion and dominance in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Quad, made up of India, Australia, Japan and the US, was created in 2007 and lay dormant for years until Biden decided to resurrect it with a first virtual meeting of his heads of state and government in March.
This time, seated together in the East Room of the White House, Biden and Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi shaped their alliance.
At the beginning of the meeting, Biden described the Quad as a group of countries that share a similar vision of the world and, with special emphasis, stated: “We are four major democracies with a long history of cooperation. We know how to get things done, and we are up to the challenge.”
In what was his last visit to the White House as Japan’s leader, Suga said the Quad meeting reflects the “strong solidarity between our four nations and our unwavering commitment to the common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Morrison also echoed that aspiration for an Indo-Pacific “free from coercion, where the sovereign rights of all nations are respected and where disputes are settled peacefully in accordance with international law. ”
The Australian leader did not mention China and its rise in the region, which he considers part of his sphere of influence, but he joined Biden’s conception of the world as a competition between democracies and authoritarian regimes.
“We are liberal democracies that believe in a world order that favors freedom. And we believe in a free and open Indo-Pacific because we know that’s what delivers a strong, stable, and prosperous region so our citizens, our peoples can realize their hopes and dreams for their futures in a liberal and free society,” Morrison added.
In addition, Modi spoke of his desire to consolidate the commitment that the Quad reached at its first summit in March: to supply 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines throughout Asia before the end of 2022.
Those efforts slowed in April after India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, suspended exports due to rising infections in the country.
India has already announced that it will resume exports in October and will give priority to the Covax program.
“Today, when the world is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, we are meeting once again, as Quad, and working in the interest of humanity, based – our Quad vaccine initiative will greatly help countries in the Indo-Pacific region,” Modi highlighted.
The leaders also announced a “Quad scholarship” program that, over the next year and a half, will allow 100 students – 25 from each of the four countries – to pursue science and technology-related master’s and doctorate studies at elite US universities.
Talks to ban illegal fishing, combat the climate crisis and strengthen the semiconductor supply chain, which was disrupted during the pandemic, were also on the agenda, senior administration officials told the press.
They also discussed the development of 5G networks, with Beijing currently leading the 5G race thanks to Huawei, with Washington trying to develop the technology against the clock and seeking the support of other countries to prevent Huawei from dominating the market.
None of the leaders responded to questions from the press about China.
Friday’s summit came just a week after Australia, the United Kingdom and the US introduced their AUKUS defense alliance to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.
With that announcement came Australia’s cancellation of a multibillion-dollar submarine-building contract with France in favor of nuclear-powered submarines with help from the United States and the United Kingdom, causing a crisis between the group’s members and their European partners.
Both AUKUS and the Quad meeting show that Biden considers the Indo-Pacific as the stage where Washington and Beijing will dispute global hegemony. EFE