Quad summit in Hiroshima could be the shortest yet

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The cancellation of Biden’s Australia visit has raised questions about America’s commitment to the Quad….writes Yaswant Raj

The third in-person Quad summit that was to take place in Australia earlier is now being held in Japan’s Hiroshima on Saturday. Scheduled to last only 40 minutes, it will perhaps be the shortest summit yet of the body that has been seen as the Indo-Pacific bulwark against rising China.

US President Joe Biden, Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India, Anthony Albanese of Australia and Fumio Kishida of Japan will meet on the sidelines of the ongoing G-7 summit, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who is travelling with the US delegation in Japan, said Friday.

“Along with sharing strategic assessments, the leaders will welcome new forms of Quad cooperation on secure digital technology, submarine cables, infrastructure capacity building, and maritime domain awareness,” Jean-Pierre said further, adding, “President Biden thanks Prime Minister Albanese, as well as the Prime Ministers of Japan and India, for their flexibility, and he looks forward to rescheduling his trip”.

Biden was earlier to travel to Australia from Japan for a bilateral summit with Albanese and a Quad summit, joined by Modi and Kishida. But he cancelled that leg as, the White House has said, he needs to be back in Washington to negotiate a budget deal with Republicans to raise America’s debt limit and prevent it from defaulting, which could have grave consequences not only for the US but the world at large. The two sides have until June 1 to come to an agreement.

The cancellation of Biden’s Australia visit has raised questions about America’s commitment to the Quad, which has had a checkered history – taking off as a group to organise relief and rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami, it fell apart in 2008 as Australia bolted, caving in to Chinese pressure; it was resurrected by the Donald Trump administration with an officials-level meeting in 2017 and it grew rapidly to meetings of the Foreign Ministers of the four countries and to a summit-level meeting in January 2021, although it took place virtually.

The first in-person summit-level meeting took place in September 2021 in Washington DC and it lasted over 2 hours, according to a schedule released at the time by the White House of the president’s engagements. Biden and Modi were joined by then Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and then Japanese premier Yoshihide Suga.

It was also a convenient time for the summit to take place in the US as the leaders were all expected to be in the the country for the annual UN General Assembly meetings in New York. Biden also held his first in-person bilateral meetings with each of the three leaders, having taken charge earlier in the year.

The second in-person Quad summit took place in May 2022 in Tokyo. And the four leaders spent considerable time together, according to the White House schedule of the US President. Biden, Modi, Albanese and Kishida first met as a group for 2 hours and then together launched an application for the Quad Fellowship and carried on for a working lunch.

The third in-person summit, which is taking place in Hiroshima on the sidelines of the G-7 summit joined by invited leaders of non-member countries such as India and Australia, is scheduled to start at 8.05 p.m. local time, according to a White House schedule, and the president and first lady Jill Biden are scheduled to leave together for a dinner with G-7 and invited leaders at 8.45 p.m.

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