The first summit meeting of Quad countries

The first-ever Quad summit to be held on Friday is as much a consequence of China’s 360-degree attempt to simultaneously settle its boundaries as it is of videoconferencing getting acceptance in the interplay of diplomacy. Leaders from the US, Japan, India and Australia will hold a virtual summit. The agenda will be wide-ranging, but the focus will be on countering the “common threat”. 
Apart from US President Biden and Mr Modi, Australian PM Scott Morrison and Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga will be the other two participants at the “historic summit, the first leadership-level engagement for Quad”, and “will discuss regional and global issues of shared interest, and exchange views on practical areas of cooperation towards maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region”. 
Observers see the move as a major boost to India which has been playing a global leadership role in disbursing Covid-19 vaccines to several needy countries across the world, with China being the other major competitor. Observers also point out that American and Japanese economic muscle along with American efforts at the development of vaccines will enormously strengthen New Delhi’s own efforts at increasing its vaccine capacities, especially for the Indo-Pacific region, and will pose a stiff coordinated challenge to the Chinese efforts.
This is a smart strategy as military coordination without an economic and technological anchor is insufficient to meet the China challenge. It’s welcome, therefore, that the Quad which was earlier defined as a security dialogue is now being touted as a framework. The new accent is on resilient supply chains, emerging and critical technologies, maritime security and climate change. Hence, the idea is to draw red lines for China and insulate other countries from becoming dependent on Beijing’s economic and technological patronage. In fact, the US has already begun putting together a set of coalitions aimed at countering China’s dominance in key technologies like semiconductors, AI, quantum computing, surveillance technology etc.
These will set standards, establish best practices and eventually offer members market access and technology transfers as an alternative to Chinese products. India should fully capitalise on these coalitions to obtain cutting edge technology, boost domestic R&D and kick-start its own industrial reforms. After all, in order to counter Beijing, Delhi needs to increase its comprehensive national power by adopting an all-of-government approach. It’s on the right track in seeking to firewall critical sectors from Chinese equipment and cyberattacks – such as the recent intrusions into India’s power infrastructure. With telecom forming the backbone of a modern, digital economy, this sector must be shielded from predatory Chinese activities.
The Biden administration’s strategic approach is a good one, and Delhi can ill-afford to procrastinate about siding with the West and like-minded countries seeking to uphold international rules and freedoms, due to fear of what Beijing might think or its own ideological hobby horses. Delhi has a knack of missing international opportunities whenever they arise due to its lack of flexibility, which allows nimbler rivals to outmanoeuvre it. It must not miss the bus again, hoping to shine in splendid isolation.   
 

- Prabhakar Purandare

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