Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Tokyo for his second in-person Quad summit on Tuesday, where he will also hold bilateral talks with U.S. President Joseph Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) announced. During his visit to Japan, which begins on May 23, Mr. Modi will address a business summit and meet with members of the Indian community in Tokyo, while the Quad summit and bilateral meetings will be held on May 24.
“The forthcoming Quad Summit provides an opportunity for the Leaders to exchange views about developments in the Indo-Pacific region and contemporary global issues of mutual interest,” the MEA said in a statement.
“The Leaders will review progress of Quad initiatives and Working Groups, identify new areas of cooperation and provide strategic guidance and vision for future collaboration,” it added.
The Quad summit is expected to take stock of the Russian war in Ukraine, and the impact of three months of Western sanctions. India is the only the member of the Quad that has not joined sanctions against Russia, nor has it directly criticised Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. India has also increased its intake of Russian oil, buying more oil in March and April, an estimated 40 million barrels more than it had in all of 2021, while the other Quad members, members of the G-7 and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have pledged to end their imports from Russia in time. More recently, the issue of India’s ban on wheat exports have been taken up by the U.S. and the G-7, which has appealed to India to reconsider.
When asked, MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that India’s stand on the wheat exports ban, with some exceptions, had been outlined by Minister of State V. Muraleedharan at the UN Security Council, and quoted him on the importance of “equity, affordability and accessibility” when it comes to food grains. “Open markets must not become an argument to perpetuate inequity and promote discrimination,” he added, in response to criticism of India’s decision.
The Quad summit in Tokyo will also review progress on the working groups formed a year ago on vaccine distribution, critical technologies, cybersecurity, space, climate change, and other issues. As The Hindu had reported on Sunday, the Quad Vaccine Initiative’s plans for a billion U.S.-developed and funded vaccine doses manufactured in India and distributed by Japan and Australia by end 2022 has run into trouble over indemnity and other issues, and no vaccines have been distributed yet as part of the project designated at Hyderabad-based Biological-E.
The MEA Spokesperson said that while it was true that the project has not yet taken off, other vaccines have been distributed by Quad countries individually so far, and it remains to be seen whether the upcoming Quad summit will see a “review” of the vaccine initiative given the logjam. “Whatever each country can do, it is doing. Yes, the original plan was to have very different modalities, but the final objective is to ensure that vaccines would be shared from the Quad umbrella to countries that need them,” Mr. Bagchi said.
The MEA also said that during bilateral talks with Mr. Biden, Mr. Modi is expected to discuss the India-U.S. Strategic Partnership. Australian general elections are being held on May 21, and it is unclear whether the winner of the polls would be in Tokyo or will attend the summit virtually, officials said, indicating that much would depend on how clear the margin of victory in the elections is.
If they meet, Prime Minister Modi and the Australian PM “are expected to review the India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”, the MEA statement said.