Prime Minister Narendra Modi will reach the United States for the first Quad in-person meet with Australia, Japan and the US and also hold talks with Joe Biden.
The US visit will mark PM Modi’s first foreign tour in six months and will also be the first time he will be visiting the country after President Joe Biden assumed office. The visit will begin with Prime Minister Modi landing in Washington late on September 22.
The next morning, PM Modi will be meeting with top CEOs of the US. According to reports, PM Narendra Modi is likely to meet with Apple chief Tim Cook and US Vice President Kamala Harris.
On September 23, PM Modi is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with his Australian and Japanese counterparts, Scott Morrison and Yoshihide Suga.
President Joe Biden will later host the Quad leaders for dinner. The visit of the three leaders will follow the visit of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
PM Modi was supposed to travel to the UK for the G-7 summit and the India-UK bilateral talks, which was later cancelled in wake of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On September 24, PM Modi will hold the first in-person bilateral talks with Joe Biden at the White House. The two have met virtually on at least three occasions the Quad virtual summit in March, the climate change summit in April and the G-7 summit in June this year.
The Quad Factor
The bilateral will be followed by the Quad leaders’ summit being hosted by Joe Biden at the White House, which is touted as a counter move against China to secure the Indo-Pacific region. This comes days after US, Australia and UK signed the major defence pact, AUKUS, that will enable Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines.
While Quad is also a security alliance, AUKUS seems to be willing to take on China more aggressively one that has an addition of Britain in the mix since there were no plans of an expansion of the Quad.
During an interaction on September 7, when External Affairs Minister Jaishankar was asked if the Quad grouping is looking to expand, he answered in the negative saying, “The Quad in a sense becomes four countries in a changing, evolving region who are comfortable working with each other. They have come together with an agenda that they make up as they go along.”
He added, “We shouldn’t really look at it as just security. Today we are seriously discussing vaccine production and distribution, disruptions because of Covid, connectivity. Can’t think of anybody who would fit the bill right now given the comfort we share. Haven’t heard any discussion of expansion.”
While India is going ahead with this security alliance, a riled Beijing has reacted sharply to both the security and military alliances. China strongly criticised the trilateral partnership, saying it would severely damage regional security and spark an arms race.
India has maintained a studied silence on the new alliance. Focusing on the upcoming Quad meeting, India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla said that the agenda is ‘constructive’.
“The agenda of cooperation under the Quad framework is constructive and diverse. The four Quad countries are engaged on issues of connectivity and infrastructure, emerging technologies, climate action, education, and most important of all, COVID-19 responses which include vaccines collaboration, and resilient and reliable supply chains,” Shringla said while delivering a speech at the 6th JP Morgan “India Investor Summit” on Monday.
From Washington, PM Modi will travel to New York to address the General Debate of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on September 25 in New York.
India’s focus will remain on the situation in Afghanistan and terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
PM Modi’s concerns on regional security
Prime Minister Modi spelt out New Delhi’s stand on the new Taliban administration very clearly when he spoke at the ‘SCO-CSTO Outreach Summit on Afghanistan’ on September 17, 2021.
He said, “The first issue is that the transition of power in Afghanistan is not inclusive, and it has happened without negotiation. This raises questions about the acceptability of the new system. The representation of all sections of Afghan society, including women and minorities, is also important.”
Highlighting the role of the UN, he said, “And therefore, it is necessary that the decision on recognition of such a new system is taken by the global community collectively and after due thought. India supports the central role of the United Nations on this issue.”
On the issue of terrorism and radicalisation, PM Modi said, “If instability and fundamentalism persist in Afghanistan, it will encourage terrorist and extremist ideologies all over the world. Other extremist groups may also be encouraged to come to power through violence. All our countries have been the victims of terrorism in the past.”
There are a few bilateral meetings that are slated to be held on the sidelines of the UNGA.
SAARC foreign minsters’ meeting will also be held in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA. India’s Jaishankar and Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will be seen in the same room.
While Pakistan is likely to derail the process again by raising Kashmir not just at the SAARC but also at the UNGA, India will remain focused on the issue of terrorism, regional security and Afghanistan.