Biden hosts Indo-Pacific leaders at White House

US, Indian, Japanese and Australian leaders emphasised climate change and Covid during meeting

US President Joe Biden on Friday hosted his fellow leaders from an Indo-Pacific group informally known as the Quad, which includes India, Japan and Australia.

The Quad leaders discussed a wide range of issues, but placed a particular emphasis on climate change and Covid vaccine distribution.

“This group meeting of democratic partners who share a world view and have a common vision for the future, coming together to take on key challenges of our age, from Covid to climate to emerging technologies,” Mr Biden said before the joint meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“Our vaccine initiative is on track to produce an additional one billion doses of vaccine in India to boost global supply. We’re taking action on climate change, with a new partnership towards zero-emissions shipping,” Mr Modi said.

Friday's meeting marks Mr Biden’s first in-person meeting with Mr Modi since he became president. The two met separately at the White House earlier on Friday before the Quad meeting.

A group of protesters gathered outside the White House to protest Mr Modi’s visit and demand justice for Sikh farmers protesting new agricultural laws in India.

“We are here to protest Modi’s visit in the United States of America,” Bakhshish Singh Sandhu, the director of Sikhs for Justice, told The National.

“More than 3,000 Sikhs have lost their lives in and around Delhi while they’ve peacefully protested and the violence is [ongoing].”

Mr Biden also met separately with Mr Suga after the Quad leaders convened. Mr Suga was the first foreign leader to visit Mr Biden at the White House earlier this year.

He lauded the US lifting of trade restrictions on Japanese agricultural goods from Fukushima after he requested that Washington do so during his last visit with Mr Biden.

“The lifting of import restrictions by the United States against Japanese food products — including rice, vegetables and other products — from Fukushima prefecture, which was a request I made to Joe in April, is a major step in supporting the recovery from the earthquake and tsunami.”

The US lifted the restrictions after first instating them in 2011 following the nuclear meltdown in the prefecture.

Mr Morrison already had the opportunity to meet Mr Biden one-on-one on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York this week.

His visit comes a week after the US agreed to transfer sensitive technology that will allow Australia to create its own fleet of nuclear submarines, which caused a diplomatic row between Washington and Paris after Canberra scrapped a $90 billion contract to buy French submarines.

Updated: September 24th 2021, 10:33 PM