The first in-person meet of the Quad Summit will be reviewing the vaccine initiatives and the spiking global issues of cyber security, connectivity and infrastructure, cyber security, maritime security, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, climate change, and education.
By Rajesh Mehta & Uddeshya Goel
The subsequent changes in the social, geopolitical, and economic balance in the Indo-Pacific region in the last year have brought the recent Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting with the US President Joe Biden to the focal point. The first in-person meet of the Quad Summit will be reviewing the vaccine initiatives and the spiking global issues of cyber security, connectivity and infrastructure, cyber security, maritime security, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, climate change, and education.
What gives the summit and bilateral a key place in the global event calendar is the timing. With a fallout in Afghanistan, the rising influence of China in the Indo-Pacific region, delta Covid-19 variant breaking new records, and evolving digital business space, the meet will give India the podium to assert its importance and initiate new projects for future developments.
While the status of the Quad group has been heightened in the last year, the sudden entry of AUKUS in the Indo- Pacific security initiatives has put a question mark on the Quad’s future relevance. All five countries are currently facing numerous security crises, such as North Korea, Afghanistan, and China, that are threatening regional and even global stability. While the goal of the two groups is the same, to counter these influences in the region, but the divided initiative may bring some slack and turn counterproductive. The recent summit may put pressure on the US to clear the clouds on the allocation of initiatives and the role India will play. For the future, India must demand the US to not corner the allies by getting into side deals and keep them in the shadow.
But India has more immediate concerns to raise with Biden. It is in the front row of the theatre that Biden left – Afghanistan – and the theatre in which he wants to perform next – China. Living next to a potential playground for terrorists and an itchy, wolf-warrior aggressor is more than a hefty challenge. India will be curious to know from Biden if he plans to review US policy on Afghanistan & Pakistan and how the states will counterbalance the dragon without triggering multiple rounds of trade sanctions.
India needs to negotiate on the economic and business fronts with the three leaders to make the most of the opportunities developing in the region. The issue which tops the crisis list is the prevalent shortages of semiconductors because of disrupted global supply chains. The issue has already brought the automobile and hardware manufacturing industries 6 months behind on their production targets. What’s even concerning is the fact these two sectors alone constitute 55% of the total manufacturing sector in India. To counter the Chinese bottlenecks in the market, India must develop local semiconductor supply chains in the long run with the help of its allies and turn out to be global exporters.
The current bull run in the public markets has also drawn the attention of Silicon Valley towards the traction the Indian Start-up space has been getting in the last year. The investments in private equity in India in the first eight months of the year were at $47.3 billion, which was at par with the previous full-year high recorded in 2020. To keep the engine running, India should negotiate on opening the doors for investments by fast-tracking local innovation in the Indian space-tech, energy, cybersecurity, and deep tech.
The summit can also be seen as a hope for an India-US FTA, which has been in a dead-end zone since the last decade. However, it is unlikely to see the light of day in the present form, going by the unreasonable demands made in crucial areas of agriculture, medical equipment, intellectual property, and e-commerce by the US. Being a 130Bn population India has a fiduciary responsibility to protect the well-being of its people and opening these sectors, which employ ~50% of the population, may loosen the economic sovereignty.
For the International Climate Fund, it’s time the US sticks to its promise to double the US finances to developing nations like India and triple funding for adaptation. This will restore the US’s position as a credible partner in tackling the climate crisis. Although the US has managed to convince India to restart the vaccine exports from Oct’21, it’s time for the states to formalize a long-term deal with India to develop and innovate crucial drugs and vaccines for the prevailing and future pandemics.
On the social front, India must push the Democrats to pass the bill which could have cleared the path for Indians to get a green card in the US but was halted by the senate. The PM visit is also an opportunity to move the Indian Diaspora towards investing in the economic growth plans of the Indian government and motivate them to actively participate in global deliberations to improve the Indian stance in the post-covid world.
The world is moving fast, so does India’s position in world politics. In this pandemic era, when the world needs India in almost every field, this visit is going to witness a more confident and powerful India.
(The authors – Rajesh Mehta is a leading consultant & columnist working on Market Entry, Innovation & Public Policy. Uddeshya Goel is a financial researcher with specific interests in international business and capital markets. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)