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Quad is out of Abe's shadow: What is Japanese PM Fumio Kishida's view and what should India look out for

Quad is out of Abe's shadow: What is Japanese PM Fumio Kishida's view and what should India look out for

Quad is out of Abe's shadow: What is Japanese PM Fumio Kishida's view and what should India look out for
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By CNBCTV18.com Jul 11, 2022 5:19:09 PM IST (Published)

Shinzo Abe was the first to assert the US, Japan, India, and Australia cooperate to contain China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific. With his tragic assassination, what is the future of Quad under the new leadership and what should India look out for.

Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stands to rule without interruption until 2025 with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, scoring a major victory in a parliamentary election on Sunday. Kishida accepted the victory without a smile as it followed the death of one of LDP's tallest leaders — Shinzo Abe.

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The re-election will allow Kishida to further shape long-term policies on the economy, environment, infrastructure, trade and national security, among others. The question now arises is what would be Kishida's outlook on Abe's legacy of deepening and promoting cooperation among Quad countries for a free and fair Indo-Pacific.
The Quad dialogue was initiated by Abe during his first short term in office from 2006-200 with support from India, Australia, and the US.
Abe's Quad legacy
"We, the leaders of Australia, India, and the United States are shocked at the tragic assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He was a transformative leader for Japan and for Japanese relations with each one of our countries," the White House statement read soon after Abe's death. This highlights his importance for the Quad countries.
Shinzo Abe was the first to assert the US, Japan, India, and Australia cooperate to contain China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific. After a month of announcing joint naval exercises near Tokyo, its first-ever meeting was held in Manila in 2007, which led Beijing to protest strongly.
This initiative collapsed after Abe lost power and Australia's then PM John Howard lost the election to Kevin Rudd, who advocated closer ties with China, and India's strong belief in maintaining good relations with its neighbour. The US, too, did not regard China as a major challenger at the time.
As China’s muscle-flexing and political and economic clout increased, the Quad regrouped in 2019. Abe was back in power in 2012 and with the support of India's Narendra Modi and Australia's Scott Morrison, the quadrilateral body was revived. The first quad summit took place virtually after US President Joe Biden took over from Donald Trump in 2021.
What is Kishida's stance on Quad?
Since taking over Japan's top position, Kishida has continued Abe's legacy and attempted to deepen the relationship among Quad countries.
In June, while delivering a keynote speech at IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia's premier defence conclave, he urged like-minded countries to increase investments in the  Indo-Pacific region amid growing threats from China.
He added that the Quad in its May meeting in Tokyo pledged to spend over $50 billion on infrastructure assistance and investment over the next five years. At the Tokyo summit, the leaders also launched a major new initiative for the Indo-Pacific, Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA), that allows the partner countries to fully monitor the waters on their shores and help ensure peace and stability in the region.
"The four-nation Quad grouping of the US, Japan and Australia is playing an important role in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific," he said in Singapore.
Like Abe, Kishida has been one of the strongest critics of Beijing's unilateral actions in the South China Sea and also against Taiwan. He has also never shied away from criticising Beijing's multilateral forums.
In the recent G7 meet, he stressed the need for showing a united front to prevent other countries from drawing the “wrong lessons” from the war in Ukraine. The reference here was clearly China.
Thus, on the foreign policy front, Kishida's policy looks to be in continuation with that of Abe's.
Ties with India
Kishida met Modi for the first time as a Japanese PM in May for the 14th India-Japan Annual Summit. India had then said the summit in New Delhi would provide an opportunity for both sides to strengthen bilateral cooperation and exchange views on regional and global issues to advance partnership for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.
Two months later the leaders met again. This time in Tokyo. Apart from the IPMDA, Kishida and Modi dwelled upon the need for them to maintain the momentum of regular high-level exchanges.
“Both leaders undertook a comprehensive stocktaking of the entire framework of bilateral partnership to carry forward cooperation in diverse areas, including in the field of defence manufacturing in India,” India's foreign secretary had said in a media briefing.
This is important for India as China has raised its military manoeuvring and claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.
Modi is scheduled to meet Kishida in Japan later this year. This would be the first meeting of the two Quad partners without Abe's shadow.
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