Prime Minister Narendra Modi will participate in the first online summit of the Quad bloc of nations tomorrow, where the new US President Joe Biden is also participating. It is not yet known if they will have an exclusive meeting. The two leaders have had telephonic conversations twice, the last one after Mr Biden’s victory, where among other issues, they had discussed the Quad meeting.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga are the two other participants of the Quad – revived in 2017 to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
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,” the government said.
“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,” read a statement from the foreign ministry.
The agenda will also include the ongoing efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The leaders will “explore opportunities for collaboration in ensuring safe, equitable and affordable vaccines in the Indo-Pacific region,” the government said.
At the last meeting of the Quad in October, the four nations had re-affirmed the importance of maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of the border dispute with China and the southeast Asian giant’s aggressive military behaviour in the Indo-Pacific and the South China Sea.
Then US Secretary of state Mr Pompeo had taken a hard line on China, asking the participating nations to unite against Beijing’s “exploitation, corruption and coercion” in the region.
In February, Quad was discussed by PM Modi and Mr Biden when the US President dialled New Delhi. The two leaders had agreed to the need to strengthen Indo-Pacific security through the Quad grouping.
“The leaders agreed to continuing close cooperation to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, including support for freedom of navigation, territorial integrity, and a stronger regional architecture through the Quad,” the White House had said in a statement.