New Delhi: In a crucial development and what is being seen as a significant day in a geostrategic sense, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be participating, along with US President Joseph R Biden and Prime Ministers of Australia and Japan, Scott Morrison and Yoshihide Suga respectively in the first Leaders’ Virtual Summit of the Quadrilateral Framework on March 12, Friday.
“The Leaders will discuss regional and global issues of shared interest, and exchange views on practical areas of cooperation towards maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region,” an MEA statement said minutes after Mr Modi and his Japanese counterpart Mr Suga held an important round of tele talks.
Notably, during the 40-minute phone call with Modi, Japanese Prime Minister on Tuesday (March 9) “expressed serious concerns regarding unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Sea, China’s Coast Guard Law and the situation in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).”
The statement from India’s Ministry of External Affairs, however, did not name China in any form.
Prime Minister Suga also asked for understanding and cooperation toward the early resolution of the abductions issue by North Korea.
Furthermore, the two leaders confirmed that they have grave concerns over the situation in Myanmar and they would closely work together in this vein, Japanese Foreign Ministry said in its statement.
The MEA statement in Delhi, however, said – “The two leaders further exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest and concurred that the partnership between the two countries could play a pivotal role in addressing common challenges. In this regard, they emphasized that their engagement with like-minded countries such as Australia and the U.S. in the form of Quad consultations holds value and agreed that these useful discussions must continue”.
The Summit will provide an opportunity to exchange views on contemporary challenges such as resilient supply chains, emerging and critical technologies, maritime security, and climate change.
The Leaders will discuss ongoing efforts to combat Covid-19 pandemic and explore opportunities for collaboration in ensuring safe, equitable and affordable vaccines in the Indo-Pacific region.
Prime Minister Modi noted the Mumbai Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) project as a shining example of India-Japan bilateral strategic partnership and expressed his commitment to its successful implementation, the MEA said.
The two leaders shared the recognition that cooperation towards realizing a Free and Open Indo-Pacific is becoming increasingly important and to this end, shared the view to steadily advance both Japan-India bilateral cooperation and Japan-Australia-India-U.S. quadrilateral cooperation, the Japanese statement said.
It may be mentioned in October last year during the Quad Foreign Ministers meeting in Tokyo, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar without naming any country but seen as a veiled attack on Beijing, had maintained that India would remain “committed to upholding the rules-based international order, underpinned by the rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation in the international seas, respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty and peaceful resolution of disputes”.
However, for his part, the then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was at his combative best and accused China’s governing Communist Party directly of “exploitation, corruption and coercion”.
Essentially remaining forthright in blaming China for the pandemic “that came from Wuhan”, Pompeo had also said this was “made infinitely worse by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) cover-up”.
The Quad, which was an informal grouping in 2007, was championed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and was generally aimed at seeking enhanced co-operation between the four democracies vis-a-vis a rapidly rising ‘aggressive’ China.
Of course, the Quad has assumed a special significance of its own, especially for New Delhi as the timing 2020-21 coincides with its border tensions with China.
It may be mentioned that in last few years, the Modi government has also decided to stay away from the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) New Delhi also declined to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).