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QUAD Summit: Modi-Biden meet in Tokyo; Russia-Ukraine war, China, free Indo-Pacific to be in focus

But since the upcoming meeting of the QUAD is happening against the background of a live conflict in Ukraine, it would be unrealistic to assume that its shadow would not fall upon the QUAD meeting.

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The meeting of the QUAD taking place in Tokyo coincides with the US President’s visit to that country. (Twitter/PMOIndia)

Stage is set for the QUAD Leaders Summit in Tokyo next week, where Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to have  bilateral meeting with the US President Joe Biden. Focus of the QUAD meeting and bilateral with other leaders will be on the increasing presence of China in the Indo-Pacific Region, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, COVD-19 vaccine initiative and other issues of mutual interest including clean energy.

“New Delhi does not view the ongoing war in Ukraine as linked to the issues in the Indo-Pacific. It expects Washington to treat the two regions differently. But since the upcoming meeting of the QUAD is happening against the background of a live conflict in Ukraine, it would be unrealistic to assume that its shadow would not fall upon the QUAD meeting. The QUAD members should not judge others from their normative high ground, and rather work on the real issues emerging in the Indo-Pacific,” opines Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU.

The meeting of the QUAD taking place in Tokyo coincides with the US President’s visit to that country. And, it comes days after general elections in Australia (Elections in Australia will take place on May 21, 2022). Which means, probably just three QUAD members will meet and this will also be the first in-person meet between PM Modi and the US President since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24th February, 2022.

The US President is reaching Tokyo at the end of his visit to South Korea, which has expressed its keenness to join the QUAD. And the White House has already announced, according to media reports, that during his visit the US President will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea during the visit.

The two leaders, PM Modi and US President Biden had an in-person meeting last year in September, and in March this year the two leaders met virtually to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

India’s position from day one has been on the need for leaders of both countries Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to take a path of diplomacy and dialogue.

India’s position on Russia-Ukraine War

According to Prof Rajan Kumar’, “India’s stance has raised some concerns about its ties with the QUAD. Washington was confident that New Delhi would behave the way Tokyo or Canberra did in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Instead, it required some bitter exchange of words to make Washington understand that New Delhi is not on the same page as other western countries.”

Expected agenda of QUAD

Besides keeping the Indo-Pacific open, safe and secure, PM Modi has been highlighting several areas for practical cooperation for the QUAD including connectivity, clean energy, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, debt sustainability, and supply chains.

Countries including India, Japan, Australia and the US together formed the QUAD which was the initiative of the former US President Donald Trump and it was taken to the leadership level by the Biden administration.

Expert View

Several reasons why India stood its ground and did not come under the western pressure:

“First, New Delhi does not consider the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine as a conflict between democracy and authoritarianism; second, Russia is pivotal not just because of the defence trade, but a geopolitical disequilibrium that will emerge if the former switched its side in the region; third, its economic costs are very high if it follows the western sanctions; and finally, New Delhi sounds confident that Washington will never abandon India in its project of containing China,” opines Prof Rajan.

Also, according to him, “The US engagement in Ukraine is not going to make it stronger in the global balance of power. Washington might have succeeded in providing a façade of unity to NATO in the short-term, but its global ambition will encounter multi-faceted resistance now. China and Russia are likely to work together in the coming years. The space for the US has shrunk in several parts of the world. Its authoritative role in several conflicts will still encounter resistance from the Moscow-Beijing axis.”

Will India’s stand on Russia-Ukraine war impact the QUAD?

“From New Delhi’s perspective, the QUAD is a pivotal organization committed to the issues in the Indo-Pacific. India would like to work closely with the QUAD countries in the region. India has not changed its perspective on China. New Delhi considers Beijing an expansionist power in the Indo-Pacific, and a real threat to the liberal democratic order. It is dismayed that the US is caught in a conflict with a country that has become secondary in its global economic and military influence,” he adds.

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