China in mind, Modi and Japanese PM push for a stronger Quad cooperation

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday spoke with his Japanese counterpart Suga Yoshihide. During a telephonic talk, the two leaders agreed that the stronger ties between India and Japan “will help meet the challenges of the current regional and global situation”. 

The talk between PM Modi and Suga lasted for 25 minutes. Sources said that the newly appointed Japan’s PM stressed the need to strengthen cooperation among the Quad countries — Japan, India, US and Australia. Sources said that PM Modi and Suga may not have named China, but there was a clear message for the Dragon. 

The Japanese PM’s focus on strengthening cooperation among Quad nations, whose one of key agendas is countering Chinese aggressive and expansionist behaviour, is in itself a clear message to Beijing, say sources. According to diplomats, “When PM Modi and Suga referred to regional challenges, that had also something to do with China’s objectionable, unfair and illegal activities,” sources said. 

“Prime Minister Suga stated that he would like to promote cooperation in such multilateral mechanisms as Japan-Australia-India-US meetings and the United Nations.” 

Suga’s comments regarding Quad assume significance in light of the fact that Tokyo is all set to host a meeting of Quad foreign ministers in October.

 What is also important in this regard is that this Quad meeting will discuss at length China’s aggressive activities, be it along the LAC or in oceanic regions such as the South China Sea, the East China Sea and the Indian Ocean Region. 

According to sources, PM Modi and his Japanese counterpart spoke at length about the Indo-Pacific too. Indian readout said: “Both leaders emphasised that the economic architecture of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region must be premised on resilient supply chains, and in this context, welcomed cooperation between India, Japan and other like-minded countries.” 

“Had a very good conversation with PM Suga Yoshihide. We exchanged views on the tremendous progress in our relationship in the last few years, and the future direction of our Special Strategic and Global Partnership. @sugawitter,” PM Modi tweeted.

 “We agreed that stronger India-Japan ties would help meet the challenges of the current regional and global situation. I look forward to working with PM Suga to further strengthen our all-round partnership,” he added.

 It was their first phone call since Suga took office last week. “PM Narendra Modi had a phone call today with Yoshihide Suga, Prime Minister of Japan. The Prime Minister congratulated Prime Minister Suga on his appointment as the Prime Minister of Japan and wished him success in achieving his goals,” the PMO said in a statement.

 PM Modi also extended an invitation to Suga to visit India for the Annual Bilateral Summit, after improvement of the situation caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic, it said. 

Friday’s phone call marks the first-ever conversation between the two leaders.

 Sources said that Suga has asked Japanese foreign minister to ensure that Quad foreign ministers’ meet is quite fruitful in terms of challenges being posed by the Dragon. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is keen that Quad nations effectively deal with China’s aggressive and expansionist agenda in South Asia, the Indian Ocean region, Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific. 

According to sources, Japan is also watching China’s activities quite closely. Tokyo is keeping a close eye on Japanese islands in the East China Sea and Beijing’s attempt to flex its naval muscles there. MEA officials are hopeful of a stronger JapanIndia relationship under the leadership of the newly-appointed PM in Tokyo.