PM Modi’s upcoming visit to US maybe linked to holding of Quad Summit
A visit to the US by Prime Minister Narendra Modi this month is being linked to greater clarity on the holding of the first in-person summit of Quad leaders following Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s decision to step down, people familiar with developments said on Saturday.
The first face-to-face meeting of leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, after their maiden virtual summit in March, was being seen as the centrepiece of a visit to the US by Modi. However, Suga’s surprise move led to confusion and uncertainty about plans for the Quad meet to be hosted by Washington, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.
The Indian side has already begun advance preparations for a possible visit by the prime minister, and some of the grounds were prepared during foreign secretary Harsh Shringla’s three-day visit to Washington this week. There has been no formal announcement from the Indian side, though dates between September 22 and 27 were being looked at for the visit.
If the visit does go ahead, Modi is also expected to address the annual UN General Assembly in New York and hold his first bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden.
“There is some amount of confusion and lack of clarity on whether the Japanese prime minister will travel to the US following his decision to step down. The Indian side has begun the spade work but a call will have to be made at a higher level,” one of the people cited above said.
The people said the Japanese side had proposed holding the Quad Summit in a hybrid format, with Suga joining virtually. There have also been suggestions for holding the summit after the election of a new Japanese prime minister. It is learnt that not all Quad members are interested in holding the summit in a hybrid format.
The people also noted the US recently asked more than 150 countries planning to send a leader or a minister to speak in person at the UN General Assembly to consider giving a video address in order to prevent the meeting from becoming a super-spreader event.
The Quad comprises India, Australia, Japan and the US. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to travel to the US in September to join Biden for events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Australia, New Zealand and US Security Treaty, or ANZUS Treaty.
On Friday, Suga announced his decision not to seek re-election as leader of the ruling Liberal Democrat Party (LDP) in the face of mounting criticism over his handling of the Covid-19 crisis. Suga took over just under a year ago after Shinzo Abe resigned citing ill health.
Opposition to his leadership among LDP lawmakers has diminished his chances of winning a second term. Even if Suga were to go ahead with a visit to the US, he has to return to Japan before September 29, when LDP will hold its presidential election.
Suga is also expected to be preoccupied with campaigning for the party election, which will begin on September 17. His successor must call a general election by November 28.
The political developments in Japan have also raised the possibility of the annual bilateral summit with India being cancelled for the third straight year. The meet couldn’t be held in 2019 because of violent protests against the amended citizenship law in Guwahati, the proposed venue, and it wasn’t held last year because of the pandemic.
The planned Quad Summit was aimed at giving fresh impetus to several key initiatives, including the grouping’s vaccine partnership and measures to ensure an open and free Indo-Pacific. The four countries plan to distribute one billion doses of US-developed vaccines produced in India across the Indo-Pacific but the move hit a road block after India was hit by a devastating second wave of infections.
In March, Biden hosted the first virtual Quad leaders’ summit that pledged to work for an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific anchored by democratic values and unconstrained by coercion, an apparent signal to China.