Prime Minister Narendra Modi, United States President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japan’s Yoshihide Suga will participate in the first-ever summit of the leaders of the Quadrilateral Framework or “Quad” on March 12. The summit will be held virtually.

The Ministry of External Affairs said that the leaders will talk about regional and global matters of shared interest and discuss “practical areas of cooperation towards maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region”. “The summit will provide an opportunity to exchange views on contemporary challenges such as resilient supply chains, emerging and critical technologies, maritime security, and climate change,” the ministry added.

Modi and his Quad counterparts will also talk about efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic and discuss opportunities for collaboration in ensuring that the Indo-Pacific region gets equitable access to safe and affordable vaccines, the foreign ministry said.

An unidentified senior US official told Reuters that the countries also plan to announce agreements to augment the manufacturing of coronavirus vaccines in India.

Also read: At Quad meet, India and other countries emphasise on respecting territorial integrity, sovereignty

Meanwhile, the US also emphasised on the significance of the meeting. “On Friday morning, President Biden will meet virtually with his counterparts in the Quad: Prime Minister Suga of Japan, Prime Minister Modi of India, and Prime Minister Morrison of Australia”, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a media briefing. “Formed in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami and formalised in 2007, the Quad has met regularly at the working and foreign minister level. However, Friday will be the first time that the Quad is meeting at the leader level.”

Psaki added that Biden has made the summit one of his earliest multilateral engagements, and that it shows the importance US gave to close cooperation with its allies in the Indo-Pacific region. “A range of issues, of course, will be discussed – we expect to be discussed, I should say – facing the global community from the threat of Covid, to economic cooperation, and of course, to the climate crisis,” she said.

Last month, foreign ministers of the Quad coalition had met for a virtual summit. India’s Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Japan’s Toshimitsu Motegi reiterated their common vision for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

The Quad countries also vowed to uphold a rules-based international order, underpinned by “respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, freedom of navigation and peaceful resolution of disputes”.

In October last year, the Second Quad Ministerial Meeting was held in in Tokyo. Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said that the alliance could be a “fabric” to counter Chinese threat. “Once we’ve institutionalised what we’re doing – the four of us together – we can begin to build out a true security framework,” he added.