NEW DELHI: The top leaders of India, the US, Japan and Australia will hold their first summit in a virtual format under the framework of the Quadrilateral coalition or Quad on March 12, in a major move to further expand cooperation in the Indo-Pacific amid rising global concerns over China's growing assertiveness in the region.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Tuesday said the leaders will discuss regional and global issues of shared interest, and exchange views on practical areas of cooperation towards maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be participating, along with Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison and Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga and President of USA Joseph R. Biden, in the first Leaders' Summit of the Quadrilateral Framework, being held virtually on March 12," the MEA said in a statement.
It said the summit will provide an opportunity to exchange views on contemporary challenges such as resilient supply chains, emerging and critical technologies, maritime security, and climate change.
"The leaders will discuss ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19 pandemic and explore opportunities for collaboration in ensuring safe, equitable and affordable vaccines in the Indo-Pacific region," it said.
The four Quad member countries have been resolving to uphold a rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific.
The foreign ministers of the Quad held a virtual meeting on February 18 during which they vowed to uphold a rules-based international order underpinned by respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, freedom of navigation and peaceful resolution of disputes.
The evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific region in the wake of China's increasing military muscle-flexing has become a major talking point among leading global powers.
The US has been favouring making Quad a security architecture to check China's growing assertiveness.
The foreign ministers of the Quad member nations met in Tokyo on October 6, 2020 and reaffirmed their collective vision for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.
The foreign minister of the four countries held their first meeting under the 'Quad' framework in New York in September 2019.
In November 2017, India, Japan, the US and Australia gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the Quad to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence.
Prime Minister Modi and his Japanese counterpart Suga, during a telephonic conversation on Tuesday, shared the view that cooperation towards realising a free and open Indo-Pacific is becoming increasingly important, the Japanese foreign ministry said.