Quad leaders discuss ‘key challenges’ at White House summit

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Quad leaders discuss ‘key challenges’ at White House summit


US President Joe Biden and the leaders of Japan, Australia and India are expected to announce several joint initiatives, including efforts to tackle climate change and tackle the COVID pandemic, after the first in-person summit of the Quad Indo-Pacific alliance.
The meeting, which lasted two hours on Friday, aimed to cement the partnership amid global challenges and growing competition with China in the Indo-Pacific region.

At the start of the meeting, Biden announced a scholarship program to enable students from all four countries to earn science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degrees at U.S. universities.

The US president said countries “are coming together to tackle the main challenges of our time, from COVID to climate and emerging technologies.”

“We know how to get things done and we are up to the challenge,” Biden added in the meeting’s opening address.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison echoed Biden’s remarks, praising the efforts of the four countries announced earlier this year to produce a billion COVID-19 vaccines.

“We believe in a free and open Indo-Pacific because we know that is what makes for a strong, stable and prosperous region,” said Morrison.

The Quad, officially known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, is seen as a counterweight to China in the Indo-Pacific region. Its leaders met virtually for the first time in March.

“What these four leaders … are really here to discuss is China and China’s growing influence in all aspects of life, not just for their respective countries, but the world now,” Kimberly Halkett, Al Jazeera White House correspondent, said.

Earlier on Friday, China criticized the group as “exclusive”, saying it was “doomed to failure.”

The Quad summit comes as Washington places greater emphasis on partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration announced a security pact with the UK and Australia. The new alliance, dubbed AUKUS, will see Washington and London help Canberra acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

China strongly condemned AUKUS, calling it an “extremely irresponsible” threat to regional stability.

US officials say the Quad and the UKUS are intended to increase allied cooperation and are not targeting any country.

“At the start of the administration, the president indicated that he wanted to take this institution – it is an informal gathering of the main Indo-Pacific democracies – and raise it both to the level of leadership and for s ‘ensure we work together to build better lines of communication and strengthen cooperation and cooperative habits among us,’ a US administration official told reporters ahead of the summit.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday that the Quad was “not a security meeting or a security apparatus.”

Biden says ties with India are ‘meant to be stronger, closer and closer’ [Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who met Biden at the White House earlier on Friday, said the Quad will be a “force for global good”.

“I am convinced that our cooperation, under Quad, will ensure prosperity and peace in the Indo-Pacific and in the world,” he said.

Like other Quad countries, India has suffered a cooling in relations with China with a border dispute between the two countries that escalated into deadly clashes last year.

Biden had extended a warm welcome to Modi, citing the legacy of US Vice President Kamala Harris whose mother was Indian.

“I think the relationship between India and the United States – the greatest democracies in the world – is destined to be stronger, closer and closer, and I think it can benefit the whole world,” said Biden said.



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