The focus of attention expectedly was China as the two leaders expressed concern over coercive actions in the Indo-Pacific, strongly opposed any unilateral action meant to change the status quo and endorsed Quad as a partnership for common good.
The message, in fact, to both China and Russia was that the “rules-based international order” must be respected. Specifically on the Ukraine issue, while Modi didn’t condemn Russia, he joined Biden in reminding Moscow about the need to respect the UN Charter, international law and sovereignty and territorial integrity.They expressed deep concern over the “terrible and tragic” humanitarian consequences of the conflict, while underlining the serious and growing impact of the war on food, fuel, energy security and also critical supply chains.
“They called for greater efforts to mitigate the consequences of the war, especially in the developing world. Both countries further pledge to render continuing humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine,” said a joint statement, issued after the meeting, adding that both leaders concurred on the importance of post-conflict reconstruction in Ukraine.
Asked about the discussions on China, foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra said that Modi and Biden focused on the nature of the strategic challenges that India and the US face in the Indo-Pacific and what they could do to mitigate those.
In a message to China that the US remained focused on the Indo-Pacific, despite the immediate attention on Ukraine, Biden joined Modi in reaffirming their “enduring commitment to a free, open, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific” and also underscored the need to follow the maritime rules-based order in East and South China Seas, where China continues to pose a security threat to its maritime neighbours.
“Both leaders expressed concern over coercive actions and rising tensions, and strongly oppose destabilising or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo by force. Both sides emphasised the importance of adherence to international law, particularly as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the maintenance of freedom of navigation and overflight, in addressing challenges to the maritime rules-based order, including in the East and South China Seas,” the leaders said in the joint statement.
It’s perhaps worth recalling here that India had made the first specific mention of South China Sea in a bilateral document in 2014, after Modi’s first US summit with then president Barack Obama. India will host the Quad summit next year and look to further consolidate cooperation under the mechanism. Modi also welcomed US decision to join India’s IndoPacific Oceans Initiative.