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Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed with his Japanese counterpart Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday to boost bilateral cooperation and also strengthen ties through the India, Japan, US, and Australia grouping for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The talks between Modi and Suga came ahead of a summit of the leaders of the Quad nations, a grouping of the US, India, Australia and Japan, which support a free and open Indo-Pacific. The talks will be held on Friday as part of the focus of the administration of US President Joe Biden on reinforcing the group and countering China.

Modi and Suga also discussed defence and security cooperation during a 40-minute phone call, with Suga expressing serious concern about Chinese actions in the area, including Hong Kong and the East China Sea, according to the Japanese foreign ministry.

Modi and Suga “shared the recognition that cooperation towards realising a free and open Indo-Pacific is becoming increasingly important and, to this end, shared the view to steadily advance both Japan-India bilateral cooperation and Japan-Australia-India-US quadrilateral cooperation," the ministry said.

Modi and Suga also exchanged views on bilateral relations and “concurred that they would continue their effort to materialize the ‘Japan-India Special Strategic and Global Partnership’ through cooperation in such areas as security and defence, economic ties, including digital fields, and people-to-people exchanges," according to the statement by the Japanese ministry.

Suga expressed “serious concern regarding unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Sea, China’s Coast Guard Law, and the situation in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region," it said.

The two leaders exchanged views on the regional situation and “confirmed that they have grave concerns over the situation in Myanmar and they would closely work together in this context", it said.

Both welcomed progress on the high-speed rail project in Maharashtra and the signing of a memorandum of cooperation for specified skilled Indian workers to be employed in Japan.

India’s foreign ministry said Modi and Suga “further exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest.

Quad holds first meet on Friday

The first meeting of the leaders of the “Quad" countries—the US, India, Australia and Japan—will take place on Friday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi joining his counterparts Scott Morrison of Australia and Yoshihide Suga of Japan as well as US President Joe Biden, the Indian foreign ministry said Tuesday.

The first “Leaders’ Summit of the Quadrilateral Framework" will be held virtually on 12th March, the statement said.

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