India is likely to join the US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden are going to focus on ways and strategy to counter China’s increasing economic and military influence in the Indo-Pacific region and other geographies, giving momentum to ongoing initiatives. PM Modi and President Biden will hold bilateral talks on 24 May on the sidelines of the Quad Summit in Tokyo. Top-level sources told The Sunday Guardian that there is likelihood that India will join the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) to be launched by US President Biden in the Japanese capital. This move by India will be part of a larger strategy to take on China in terms of its growing economic influence in the Indo-Pacific.

PM Modi will also hold a bilateral meeting with Japan counterpart Fumio Kishida on the sidelines of the summit. Quad leaders will emphasise on a free and open Indo-Pacific, rules-based international orders, and the need to respect territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries in the region. Quad consists of the US, India, Japan and Australia.

China’s unauthorised and illegal activities along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh with the construction of a second bridge by Beijing near Pangong Lake will also be raised by the Indian leadership during the Quad Summit, even though the Ukraine conflict is likely to be a crucial agenda during the discussion, sources said. “The Indian PM will not at the same time alter New Delhi’s Ukraine position even a bit despite the US, Australia and Japan raising the chorus against Russia during the Quad summit,” top sources told The Sunday Guardian. An immediate halt to hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, resolution of the problems through dialogue and the need to mitigate sufferings of people in the war-hit zone will be the key points that PM Modi will reaffirm during the summit and bilateral talks with Biden, the Japanese PM and the Australian Premier, sources said. Cross-border terrorism will also be a crucial talking-point during the summit, with a clear signal to Pakistan to act against terrorists operating from the territory under its control.

According to sources, the Quad summit will come out with a strong statement on the war in Ukraine and the Chinese assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific. “Immediate cessation of hostilities between Moscow and Kyiv, as repeatedly underlined by India, will be a major point in the Ukraine section of the joint statement to be released by the Tokyo Quad Summit,” sources said.

“With IPEF being part of the US’ major effort to counter China’s rising economic clout, India has been quite positive about it,” sources said. President Biden will extend an invitation to PM Modi to join the IPEF during their bilateral talks, sources added. There are certain clauses and pillars in this economic arrangement which New Delhi may not be happy with, but what makes India positive about it is that it is a big strategic initiative to target China. The Biden administration has already designed the IPEF to prioritise flexibility and inclusion. “Washington always considered New Delhi as a vital partner for IPEF in terms of economic engagement in the region. So, a pick and choose arrangement has been made by the Biden administration, which means it is not necessary to accept all the pillars of the arrangement,” sources said. “This flexibility was there keeping in mind India’s concerns,” sources add.

While confirming that during his trip to Tokyo, President Biden will launch the IPEF, US National Security Adviser (NSA) Jake Sullivan last week said that the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework would send a powerful message to China. “We think that message will be heard everywhere. We think it will be heard in Beijing,” he said. China has already slammed the US-proposed IPEF calling it an attempt by Washington to lure Southeast Asian countries to decouple from China.