Updated: February 9, 2021 7:42:50 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday spoke with US President Joseph R Biden, where they expressed commitment to a “rules-based international order” and looked forward to “consolidating strategic partnership” to further peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.
The reference to rules-based international order and peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region is a clear reference to China’s belligerence in the region — from South China Sea to India-China border.
This conversation comes in the backdrop of reports in the Japanese media that the US is planning to hold a Quad summit through video-conferencing.
Modi tweeted, “Spoke to @POTUS @JoeBiden and conveyed my best wishes for his success. We discussed regional issues and our shared priorities. We also agreed to further our co-operation against climate change…. President @JoeBiden and I are committed to a rules-based international order. We look forward to consolidating our strategic partnership to further peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.”
While this is their first conversation since Biden’s inauguration, at least three senior-level conversations have taken place in the last three weeks.
In the last two weeks, NSA Ajit Doval spoke with his counterpart, US NSA Jake Sullivan; External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has spoken to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken; and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also received a call from Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Modi and Biden last spoke on November 17 last year, after it became clear that Biden was going to win the US elections.
After the November 17 phone conversation, the statement issued by the Biden-Harris transition team had outlined “maintaining a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region” and “tackling the threat of climate change” as areas of cooperation — something which was reiterated on Monday’s phone call as well.
Similarly, the MEA statement had also said after the November 17 call: “The leaders agreed to work closely to further advance the India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, built on shared values and common interests. The leaders also discussed their priorities, including containing the Covid-19 pandemic, promoting access to affordable vaccines, tackling climate change, and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Region.”
While cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and the Covid-19 pandemic are the two areas of continuity between the Donald Trump administration and the incoming Biden presidency, climate change is an old favourite of the Democratic establishment.
Climate change, which was not a priority during the Trump years, is back on the agenda. The Obama administration had given high priority to climate change, and the US had reached out to India during the climate change negotiations at Copenhagen (2009) and Paris (2015).
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