Washington: The commitment of the Quad nations to provide one billion COVID-19 vaccines to people in Southeast Asia by 2022 is still on track, despite the devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in India, according to a top White House official.
In March, leaders of the Quad comprising Australia, India, Japan and the United States, during their first virtual summit, committed themselves to provide one billion vaccines to Southeast Asia.
These vaccines were to be manufactured in India, but due to the unprecedented second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, certain quarters are raising doubts if the Quad can meet its commitment by 2022.
“We have been in close consultations with our partners and with India. Obviously, this is an extremely difficult period for Indian friends. The United States has tried to stand with Delhi and to bring others both in the private and the public sectors to support them,” said Kurt Campbell, the White House’s Indo-Pacific policy director.
“Our discussions with both our partners in the private sector and also in government suggests that we are knock-on-wood still on track for 2022, he said.
Participating in a panel discussion organised by the Center for New American Security, a think-tank in Washington DC, he said that the most intense efforts right now really are in the short-term.
I think we’re feeling relatively confident as we head into 2022, but we recognise that what we are facing right now across Asia, in fact, across the world are new strains that spread more rapidly, Campbell said.
Even countries that did extremely well through social distancing and masking are now facing outbreaks even with tremendous stringency, he said.
So, we understand the only way to be effective to counter this is through vaccine diplomacy. We are trying to step that up more generally, Campbell said.
Campbell said that the goal is to hold an in-person Quad meeting and a very ambitious meeting here in Washington, in the fall, he said.
The first virtual meeting of Quad leaders on March 12 was hosted by US President Joe Biden. It was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
With all leaders in attendance, we will ensure that we’ve taken the necessary steps on the vaccine deliverable, Campbell said.
We intend to build on that. We want to do something constructive with respect to infrastructure. We are going to take some other steps to build out the Quad to ensure that as an unofficial gathering, it still is a defining feature of modern diplomacy linking these key maritime democracies in a way that is deeply consequential for the 21st century, he said.
Responding to a question on news reports of expansion of the Quad, he said that the focus is going to be on deepening and increasing familiarity and broadening within governments.
We recognise that our strategic purpose extends beyond vaccines. We’re going to look at a number of areas where we think there are some natural arenas for cooperation. This is not a closed architecture. I think we want others to participate with us subsequently and follow through on initiatives, he said.
“We are briefing people actively on it. I will say that we are getting interest. People want to learn more, Campbell said.
They want to understand how they can be actively engaged, he said.
We think that’s a positive sign. We are focused on really now more than anything else, however, is make sure these foundational members take the necessary steps to support a strong venture, Campbell said.
In April and May, India struggled with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with more than 3,00,000 daily new cases. Hospitals were reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen and beds. In mid-May, new coronavirus cases in India hit a record daily high with 4,12,262 new infections. (PTI)
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