Focus on Indo-Pacific as PM heads to Tokyo

PM Modi is visiting Tokyo at the invitation of his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida to participate in the second in-person Quad Leaders Summit on May 24.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi emplanes for Tokyo, in New Delhi on Sunday. (PTI)

The Quad Leaders Summit in Tokyo will review the progress of initiatives launched by the grouping and discuss developments in the Indo-Pacific region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday, with the Indian leader also scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with US President Joe Biden, Japanese PM Fumio Kishida and Australian PM-elect Anthony Albanese on the margins of the event.

In a statement ahead of his visit to Japan during May 23-24, Modi said the second in-person Quad summit will “provide an opportunity for the leaders of the four Quad countries to review the progress of Quad initiatives”. “We will also exchange views about developments in the Indo-Pacific region and global issues of mutual interest,” he added.

Modi’s bilateral meeting with Biden will focus on “further consolidation of our multi-faceted bilateral relations” with the US. “We will also continue our dialogue on regional developments and contemporary global issues,” he said.

An event to launch the US administration’s new framework for supply chains, climate action and infrastructure projects and meetings with some of Japan’s top business leaders will dominate the agenda for the first day of PM Modi’s visit to Japan on Monday.

Modi is visiting Tokyo at the invitation of his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida to participate in the second in-person Quad Leaders Summit on May 24. On Monday, he will attend the event convened by Biden to launch the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

The bilateral meeting between Biden and Modi will include a “constructive and straightforward” dialogue along with a continued discussion on the Ukraine situation, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said. “It will be a continuation of the conversation they have already had on how we see the picture in Ukraine. They will talk all of that through and this will be similarly constructive and straightforward,” he said.

Kishida visited India in March for the annual bilateral summit, and Modi said he will continue his conversation with his Japanese counterpart to strengthen the India-Japan special strategic and global partnership.

“The newly elected Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese will be joining the Quad Leaders Summit for the first time. I look forward to a bilateral meeting with him during which the multifaceted cooperation between India and Australia under the comprehensive strategic partnership, and regional and global issues of mutual interest will be discussed,” Modi said.

Modi noted that economic cooperation between India and Japan was an important aspect of the bilateral special strategic and global partnership. During the bilateral summit in March, Kishida and Modi announced their intention to realise public and private investments and financing from Japan worth five trillion yen over the next five years.

“During the forthcoming visit, I will meet with Japanese business leaders with the goal of further strengthening economic linkages between our countries, in pursuit of this objective,” Modi said.

Japan is home to nearly 40,000 members of the Indian diaspora, and Modi described them as an “important anchor in our relations with Japan”. He said he looked forward to interacting with the Indian community.

India and countries such as Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore are widely anticipated to join negotiations for the IPEF, though the US and other countries have not made any formal announcement regarding the membership of what is being described by American officials as an economic arrangement for the integration of Indo-Pacific economies.

Indian officials have said that New Delhi has received details of the US initiative and discussions have been held on the issue. Foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra said on Saturday discussions were going on regarding IPEF even as he acknowledged that economic cooperation is a very important segment of India’s focus on the Indo-Pacific, both in terms of harnessing opportunities for economic partnership and capacity-building.

Besides the event where IPEF will be launched by Biden and Kishida, Modi will hold separate meetings with NEC Corporation chairman Nobuhiro Endo, Uniqlo CEO Tadashi Yanai, Suzuki Motor Corporation adviser Osamu Suzuki, and Softbank Group Corporation board director Masayoshi Son.

He will also participate in a roundtable with Japanese business leaders and an interaction with representatives of the Indian community in Japan.

IPEF is being perceived as a fresh bid by the US to assume a larger role in the economic sphere and regain credibility following former president Donald Trump’s decision in early 2017 to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). IPEF is not a trade agreement and will have no impact on matters such as tariffs.

The four pillars of IPEF are fair and resilient trade, including standards for digital, labour and environment, resilient supply chains, infrastructure projects and clean energy, and tax and anti-corruption. US officials have said the framework will put a premium on flexibility and inclusion, and partners can pick and choose modules without having to sign on for all the four pillars.

Sullivan on Sunday dismissed suggestions that IPEF was a security arrangement, and said: “It is an economic arrangement focused around the further integration of Indo-Pacific economies, setting of standards and rules, particularly in new areas like the digital economy, and also trying to ensure that there are secure and resilient supply chains.”

He said IPEF “will not be negotiating out maritime security arrangements”, even as he dismissed suggestions by the Chinese side that the framework would be a closed arrangement. “It is by design and definition an open platform. And we do expect, in addition to the countries that join for the launch [on Monday], others will come along in the months and years ahead,” he said.

IPEF will work to create high-standard approaches to the digital economy, clean energy transition, diverse and resilient supply chains and open and transparent economic governance, Sullivan said.