Quad meet: Ministers agree to combat Covid through better access to vaccines, medicines

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on February 18, 2021 Published on February 18, 2021

External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar (file photo)   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

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Foreign Ministers from India, Australia, Japan and the US have said they are committed to cooperate in combating Covid-19 through measures including enhanced access to affordable vaccines, medicines and medical equipment.

The third Ministerial meeting of the ‘Quad’ countries also focussed on responding to climate change and taking forward cooperation in areas such as maritime security, supply chain resilience and counter-terrorism, according to a release issued by the Ministry of External Affairs following the meeting on Thursday.

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Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar represented India at the meeting which was held virtually.

“The Ministers discussed ongoing efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, including vaccination programmes. They expressed their commitment to cooperate in addressing this challenge, enhancing access to affordable vaccines, medicines and medical equipment. India’s efforts at providing vaccines to 74 countries was recognised and appreciated,” the statement pointed out.

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Temporary waiver in TRIPS

India, together with South Africa, has been trying to urge countries at the WTO to agree to a temporary waiver in TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) obligations to ensure smooth availability of critical medicines, vaccines and equipment across the globe at affordable prices. The US, Australia, Japan, however, have been arguing that availability of medicines and vaccines could be ensured even without waiving TRIPS commitments.

Without referring to China, the release stated that the four Ministers recognised that the changes under way in the world made a strong case for their countries working closely together. “It was important for the international community that the direction of changes remains positive and beneficial to all,” it said.

The ‘Quad’ or the quadrilateral security dialogue between the four democracies, was revived in 2017, a decade after the idea first took shape, as a forum to maintain an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. China’s growing aggression and influence in the region is also seen by many as a reason for revival of the dialogue.

Rules-based international order

The Ministers emphasised their commitment to upholding a rules-based international order, underpinned by respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation in the international seas and peaceful resolution of disputes.

On the recent developments in Myanmar, the upholding of rule of law and the democratic transition was reiterated by India, the release said.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken participated in the talks.

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Published on February 18, 2021
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