Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending the first-ever in-person summit of the four leaders of the Quadrilateral Framework (Quad) in the Indo-Pacific on Friday in Washington, in many ways, is the highlight of his visit to the U.S., where he will also address the United Nations General Assembly.
U.S. President Joseph Biden had convened a virtual Quad summit with Mr. Modi and his Australian and Japanese counterparts, Scott Morrison and Yoshihide Suga, in March. And he has been keen to hold a physical meeting at the earliest, brushing aside the Tokyo’s reluctance to send Mr. Suga, as he has announced he is stepping down.
Experts say this indicates the U.S.’ intention to show its “America is back” plan with a proactive strategy on the Indo-Pacific, even as it faces criticism for the manner of its pull-out from Afghanistan. There has also been some surprise over the emergence last week of the new trilateral, the Australia-U.K.-U.S. AUKUS Indo-Pacific grouping, which could overshadow the geo-strategic aspects of the Quad, with questions raised about whether the Quad will become “Quad-lite”, dealing mainly with global social issues such as climate change, COVID-19 vaccines and supply chain resilience, while the U.S. allies, who are treaty partners, work on the stronger strategic sphere together.
Above all, the Quad summit is expected to show all the four countries as part of a strengthened coalition of “democratic polities, market economies and pluralistic societies”, as External Affairs Minister referred to the grouping in a recent speech.