Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with his counterparts from Australia and Japan on Friday attended the first in-person summit of Quad leaders hosted by US President Joe Biden and said that he firmly believed that the grouping of four democracies would act as a “force for global good” and ensure peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific as well as the entire world.
In November 2017, India, Japan, the US and Australia gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the Quad to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence, amidst China’s growing military presence in the strategic region.
At the invitation of President Biden, Prime Minister Modi and his counterparts Scott Morrison from Australia and Yoshihide Suga from Japan met at the White House for the first-ever in-person Quad summit. President Biden hosted the first virtual summit of the four leaders in March.
All the four countries in the Quad grouping are grappling with a rising China that Biden has accused of coercive economic practices and unsettling military maneuvering.
They made no direct mention of China as they opened the group’s first ever in-person meeting, but the Pacific power was sure to be a major focus as they headed into private talks.
Opening the summit, President Biden said the four democracies have come together to take on common challenges from Covid to climate. “This group has democratic partners who share world views and have common vision for the future,” he said.
“We know how to get things done and are up to the challenge,” he said.
In a short and crisp opening address, Prime Minister Modi said that he was confident that “our participation in Quad will ensure peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific as well as the entire world.”
“I am confident that our cooperation will establish peace and prosperity in the world and Indo-Pacific. I firmly believe our Quad would act as a force for global good. We had come together for first time after the 2004 Tsunami for regional cooperation in Indo-Pacific.
Today, as the world is fighting COVID-19, we as part of Quad have come together again for humanity. Our Quad vaccine initiative will greatly help the Indo-Pacific countries,” he said.
“On the basis of our shared democratic values, Quad has decided to move forward with a positive thinking and a positive approach.
“Be it supply chain or global security, climate action or covid response, or cooperation in technology, I would feel happy to discuss with my partners in Quad,” prime minister Modi said.
Prime Minister Morrison said that the Indo-Pacific region should be free from coercion and disputes should be solved in accordance with international law.
“The Indo-Pacific has great challenges and challenges have to be overcome. In six months from the last meeting so much has been accomplished. We stand here together in the Info Pacific region,” he said.
“I hope we are able to hold a relevant summit,” Japanese Prime Minister Suga said.
During the summit, the four leaders are expected to discuss promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific, address the climate crisis and advance practical cooperation on areas like combatting COVID-19.
Ahead of the Quad summit, China on Friday criticised the grouping, saying the formation of “exclusive closed cliques” runs against the trend of times, and it is “doomed to fail”.
Asked for China’s reaction as the Quad summit is expected to address the challenges and rising risks Beijing poses in the Indo-Pacific region, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told the media that the quadrilateral grouping should not target any third country and its interests.
“China always believes that any regional cooperation mechanism should not target a third party or harm its interests. Seeking exclusive closed cliques against a third country runs against the trend of the times and aspiration of countries in the region. It will find no support and is doomed to fail,” he said.
White House officials have said that the Quad leaders would announce a new working group on space, a supply chain initiative and a 5G deployment and diversification effort apart from discussing issues like challenges in the Indo Pacific, climate change and COVID-19 pandemic during their historic meeting.
Quad leaders are also planning to roll out vaccine deliverables and announce a series of measures in the field of healthcare and infrastructure sector, officials said.
India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China’s rising military manoeuvring in the region.
China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.
Ahead of the Quad summit, Prime Minister Modi separately met his Australian and Japanese counterparts on Thursday and they reaffirmed the importance of maritime security towards the realisation of a “free and open” Indo-Pacific