Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently met with the US President for a virtual edition of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad. Joe Biden, the host of the meeting, was also joined by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Following the meeting, the four leaders also published a joint op-ed in The Washington Post.
"To strengthen our quest for a region that is open and free, we have agreed to partner to address the challenges presented by new technologies and collaborate to set the norms and standards that govern the innovations of the future," they wrote in the article, touching upon the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.
Over the years, the Quad's efforts have been interpreted by some as a way of 'containing' China's growing influence. Indeed, former President Donald Trump had been keen on formalising the grouping to counter China's expansion and aggression in the region. And while official accounts of the 90-minute long summit as well as the opinion article, the four leaders made it a point to emphasise their stance on developments in the Indo-Pacific region.
"We are striving to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is accessible and dynamic, governed by international law and bedrock principles such as freedom of navigation and peaceful resolution of disputes, and that all countries are able to make their own political choices, free from coercion," they wrote.
Ahead of the meeting, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian had also felt the need to express hope that the relevant countries would "refrain from forming closed and exclusive 'cliques' and act in a way that is conducive to regional peace, stability and prosperity".
While there is not much detail available about what exactly the four leaders said, President Biden was quoted by reports as assuring that it went "very well". Indian Ambassador to the United States Taranjit Singh Sandhu has said that the relations between New Delhi and Washington is going "much deeper" and this was "very much reflected" in the equation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden.
The primary focus of the meeting is believed to have been the COVID-19 pandemic. And by all accounts, India will be playing a big role in the efforts to combat the deadly virus.
"The United States is bringing in technology. India has a vaccine production capability, and Japan is financing. And of course, Australia is coming in with logistics--there are three clear areas: health care and vaccine production; the second is IT and the third is climate change," Sandhu said while reflecting on the cooperation between the four democracies.
(with inputs from agencies)