The Quad’s mutual cooperation is encouraging a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday. The Quad, a strategic international coalition, comprises India, the United States, Japan and Australia.

“And today, Quad’s scope has become comprehensive and its identity became significant,” the prime minister said in his opening remarks at the second in-person summit of Quad leaders in Tokyo.

Modi’s comments came a day after India joined the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. The bloc led by the United States intends to offer partner countries an opportunity to counter China’s rising commercial presence in the Asia-Pacific region. China has criticised the framework, saying it is an attempt to create a closed club.

Addressing Tuesday’s summit, Modi said the Quadrilateral alliance had managed to deliver despite the adverse situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have increased our coordination for vaccine delivery, climate action, supply chain resilience, disaster response, economic cooperation and other areas,” he said. “It has ensured peace, prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific [region].”

US President Joe Biden said that a free and open Indo-Pacific region will provide great opportunities for the next generation, PTI reported. “I am looking forward to continuing to work with all of you and to strengthen economic cooperation to deliver inclusive growth and shared prosperity,” he said.

Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said his government is committed to working with the Quad countries.

“We will bring more resources and energies to securing our region as we enter a new and more complex phase in the Pacific strategic environment,” Albanese said, according to Mint. “We will continue to stand with you, our like-minded friends and collectively stand for each other.”

Biden and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida deplored Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Putin is trying to “extinguish a culture”, Biden said, adding that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not just a European matter but a global one.

Biden also said that the global food crisis may worsen if Russia blocks Ukraine from exporting wheat. Ukraine produces 7% of all wheat across the world.

“As long as Russia continues war against Ukraine, the US will work with its partners,” the US president said.

Kishida said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine challenges the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, PTI reported.

Modi did not speak about Ukraine or Russia in his remarks. India has regularly abstained from voting against Russia’s military operation in Ukraine in United Nations Security Council due to its long- standing relationship with Moscow.

Modi-Biden bilateral meeting

After meeting Biden, Modi said that the US and India shared similar views on Indo-Pacific region at bilateral level, ANI reported.

“Our trade and investment relations are also steadily on the rise but they are below our potential,” Modi said. “I am confident that with the conclusion of the US Investment Incentive Agreement we will see concrete progress in investment between our two countries.”

Monitoring dark shipping

The Quad leaders will launch a maritime initiative called the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness to monitor “dark shipping” in Pacific islands, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region, the White House on Tuesday.

Dark ships are vessels with transponders switched off to avoid detection, according to ANI. The maritime initiative between the Quad members is expected to enhance dark ship tracking in the Indo-Pacific region.

“The benefit of this maritime initiative will allow tracking of dark shipping and other tactical-level activities, such as rendezvous at sea, as well as improve partners’ ability to respond to climate and humanitarian events and to protect their fisheries, which are vital to many Indo-Pacific economies,” said the White House.

STEM fellowship launched

The Quad leaders launched a fellowship programme to sponsor 25 students from every member countries to pursue advanced courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics academic discipline at universities in the US, reported the Hindustan Times.

“The Quad Fellowship Programme is a wonderful and unique initiative,” Modi said. “This prestigious fellowship will offer our students great opportunities to pursue graduate and doctorate programmes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

The fellowship will include scholarships, mentorship, career-advancing programmes and cross-cultural exchange opportunities, the White House said.

Applications for the programme will be accepted till June 30. The classes will begin in 2023.