(ATF) India will produce more than 1 billion extra Covid-19 vaccine doses by the end of next year in an initiative launched on March 12 with the US, Japan and Australia, as the four countries held their first-ever joint leaders' summit.
US President Joe Biden, who has vowed to reinvigorate alliances in the face of growing worries about China, met virtually with the three nations' prime ministers in a format known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue - or Quad - as they pledged together to defend a "free and open" Asia-Pacific region.
"We're renewing our commitment to ensure that our region is governed by international law, committed to upholding universal values and free from coercion," said Biden, who like the others made no explicit mention of China.
They announced that Indian company Biological E would manufacture at least 1 billion additional vaccine doses by the end of 2022, they added.
Hyderabad-based Biological E, a maker of typhoid and other vaccines, has been developing its own Covid-19 shot, but the Quad plan calls for the Indian company to focus on the single-shot, US-developed Johnson & Johnson jab.
Southeast Asia would be prioritised for the vaccinations, they added.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the vaccine initiative showed that the Quad is "a positive force for global good and for peace, stability and prosperity".
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the summit marked a new dawn. "As four leaders of great liberal democracies in the Indo-Pacific, may our partnership be the enabler of peace, stability and prosperity, and to do so inclusively with the many nations of our region," Morrison said, referring to the US and Indian term for the region.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he raised "strong opposition to China's unilateral attempts to change the status quo" and voiced concern over Myanmar's coup.
Japan has become more assertive in the Quad proceedings, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). "This is driven by shared concerns about China’s assertive foreign policy and a desire to gain [US] support," the EIU said.
Beijing has denounced the Quad as a US plot, saying on March 12 that other countries should "refrain from forming closed and exclusive cliques and act in a way that is conducive to regional peace, stability and prosperity".
Zhao Lijian, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, added: "State-to-state exchanges and cooperation should help enhance mutual understanding and trust among regional countries, instead of targeting against or undermining the interests of any third party."
With reporting by Agence France-Presse