India joined Australia, Japan and the United States a couple of weeks back for a ministerial meeting of the quadrilateral grouping – the Quad – which underscored its commitment to “to upholding a rules-based international order, underpinned by respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation in the international seas and peaceful resolution of disputes.”
That the Biden administration so early in its term decided to convene this meeting speaks volumes about the priorities of Washington as well as the enduring relevance of the quadrilateral platform with all the attendant implications.
And last month, in a phone call between President Biden and PM Modi, the two leaders tried to set the bilateral policy agenda wherein two issues emerged as the core of their engagement: climate change and a free and open Indo-Pacific. For the Biden administration, a renewed focus on the climate agenda is one of the most serious ways of underscoring its differences with the Trump administration.
From appointing former secretary of state John Kerry as its special climate envoy to rejoining the Paris climate agreement, the new political dispensation in Washington is signalling its priorities of America once again joining the global multilateral mainstream. And India under Modi is rapidly positioning itself to emerge as a serious stakeholder in climate change conversations, with India expected to go beyond its Paris agreement targets.
This is indeed a remarkable turnaround for a nation that till a few years back was widely viewed as a “naysayer” in climate change debates, thereby providing a convergent issue area for New Delhi and Washington to shape the next stage of their bilateral engagement.