United States President Joe Biden plans to meet leaders of three “Quad” countries – India, Japan and Australia – in a virtual summit this month, Axios reported on Friday. The meeting assumes significance in the backdrop of China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
This will be the first-ever meeting of the four leaders. “This will become a feature of Indo-Pacific engagement,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Sydney on Friday, according to Bloomberg Quint. “It will be four leaders, four countries, working together constructively for the peace, prosperity and stability of the Indo-Pacific.” Morrison, however, did not give any details on the timing of the talks. The White House has not confirmed the upcoming meeting yet.
The “Quad” or Quadrilateral coalition, established in 2017, comprised of India, Japan, the United States and Australia. The bloc is meant to hold security dialogue among the four biggest democracies of the region.
Last month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had participated in the third Quadrilateral Ministerial Meeting. During the summit, the leaders had pledged “to strongly oppose unilateral and forceful attempts to change the status quo in the context of the East and South China Sea”. The meeting took place in the backdrop of China’s military actions in the South China Sea and along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh, as well as Beijing’s crackdown in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
All four members of the Quad have their interests in conflict with Beijing. China and the US are at loggerheads over various matters, including the coronavirus pandemic, Hong Kong, Taiwan, trade, and human rights.
India was engaged in a border standoff with China after the violent clashes in Galwan Valley in June. A breakthrough came only in February as the two countries finalised a disengagement agreement. The disengagement process along Pangong Tso in Ladakh began on February 10, as military commanders began pulling out troops, tanks and artillery from the area in the first step towards full withdrawal. The process has been completed. On February 20, India and China held commander-level talks to discuss pulling back from other areas.
Tokyo, too, has expressed concerns over China’s claim to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Japan’s annual defence policy paper published in July alleged that China unilaterally changed the status quo in the South China Sea, where it has militarised man-made islands and was slowly trying to virtually claim all of the sea’s important fisheries and waterways.
Relations between China and Australia have also deteriorated. Australia’s trade has taken a hit by the deteriorating relations with Beijing.
China has, however, repeatedly denied all allegations levelled against it. On the coronavirus pandemic, the country said that it acted quickly to give information about the infection to the World Health Organization and other countries. It has also alleged that the US is the biggest aggressor in the South China Sea. China also refuted claims of human rights violations against minority Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang district and in its handling of Hong Kong. Beijing, meanwhile, has accused Western nations of meddling in its internal affairs.