PM Narendra Modi, President Joe Biden agree to promote free and open Indo-Pacific region, strengthen Quad


Washington: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden during a phone conversation has agreed to continue close cooperation to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region, including support for freedom of navigation, and a stronger regional architecture through the Quad.

During the phone call on Monday, President Joe Biden underscored his desire to defend democratic institutions around the world and noted that a shared commitment to democratic values is key for the US-India ties.

“The leaders (PM Modi and President Biden) also agreed to continue 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 said in a press statement.

“The President underscored his desire to defend democratic institutions and norms around the world and noted that a shared commitment to democratic values is the bedrock for the US-India relationship,” the statement added. The development comes as members of the Quad framework- the US, India, Japan and Australia – are working to arrange the first meeting of their leaders amid China`s growing clout in the region, reported the Japan Times.

The move comes as the Biden administration appears eager to build on the renewed attention to the grouping of the four major Indo-Pacific democracies, with national security adviser Jake Sullivan calling it “a foundation upon which to build substantial American policy in the Indo-Pacific”, reported the daily quoting a source.

According to the source, the US has already proposed to other countries the idea of holding an online meeting of the Quad leaders. During the envisioned meeting, the Quad members are expected to discuss cooperation for the realisation of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” amid concerns over China`s maritime assertiveness in the region.

It is speculated that China may react with displeasure to the meeting. The Japan Times reported that for the first time under the Quad framework, the foreign ministers of the four countries met in New York in 2019. The four countries held another meeting last year in Tokyo during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the October meeting, then-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reprimanded the dragon (China) for using its economic power to increase its hegemony over the neighbouring countries in South Asia. Pompeo brought to the forum a denunciation of China`s “exploitation, corruption, and coercion” of neighbouring countries. 

He said, “This is for the soul of the world. This is about whether this will be a world that operates in this sense that we`re on a rules-based international order system or one that`s dominated by a coercive totalitarian regime like the one in China.” 

The Quad initiative is expected to put an end to the economic coercion tactics of China and cooperation with Japan and other allies will checkmate Chinese development assistance and its hegemony in the region. 

Biden, Modi commit towards greater Indo-US ties

Both the head of the states have committed to defeat the COVID-19, rebuild the global economy, jointly combat the scourge of global terrorism and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, setting up an ambitious agenda to take the strategic bilateral ties to the next level.

The two leaders, during their first phone call on Monday after Biden was sworn in as the 46th US President, 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 said.

After being sworn in as president on January 20, President Biden has so far had phone calls with nine foreign leaders. Traditionally, the new American president makes first phone calls to the leaders of two neighbouring countries — Canada and Mexico.

Thereafter, Biden called leaders of close US allies, including Britain, France, Germany, South Korea and Australia. In between, he called Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was necessitated due to the extension of the New Start Treaty for another five years.

Modi is the first foreign leader, whom Biden has spoken with beyond neighbours and key NATO allies, reflecting the significance his administration attaches to ties with India. 

“The President underscored his desire to defend democratic institutions and norms around the world and noted that a shared commitment to democratic values is the bedrock for the US-India relationship,” the White House said, adding the two leaders resolved that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld in Myanmar.

Biden and Modi agreed to stay in close touch on a range of global challenges and look forward to what the United States and India will achieve together for their people and for their nations, the White House said.

In a tweet, Modi said that he conveyed his best wishes to the US President and they discussed regional issues as well as shared priorities. “We also agreed to further our cooperation against climate change,” he said.

“President Biden & I are committed to a rules-based order. We look forward to consolidating our strategic partnership to further peace & security in Indo-Pacific region and beyond,” Modi said in another tweet.

The two leaders had a very warm and wide-ranging conversation, India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, told PTI after the phone call between the two leaders.

This was the second phone call between Biden and Modi after the November 3 presidential elections and the first one since Biden assumed office on January 20. The first one was on November 17 when they reiterated their firm commitment to bilateral strategic partnership and discussed shared priorities such as COVID-19, energy and climate change, and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, Sandhu said in an earlier interview last week.

Biden is known to be a strong proponent of closer India-US ties since his days as a senator in the 1970s and played a key role in getting the approval of the Senate for the bilateral civil nuclear deal in 2008.
The strategic and defence ties between India and the US witnessed major expansion during Barack Obama’s presidency and Biden, as the vice president, had played a key role in it. 

(With Agency Inputs)



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