Jaishankar heads to Australia next week for Quad foreign ministers’ meet
NEW DELHI: External affairs minister S Jaishankar will travel to Australia next week for the fourth meeting of foreign ministers of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad that is expected to focus on the grouping’s Covid-19 vaccine partnership and security across the Indo-Pacific.
This will be the first foreign visit of the year for Jaishankar, who has recovered from a Covid-19 infection, and also his first trip to Australia since he became the foreign minister. The foreign ministers of the four members of Quad – India, Australia, Japan and the US – last met virtually in February 2021.
The two-day meeting of the Quad foreign ministers, expected to be held during February 10-11, comes against the backdrop of concerns about the aggressive behaviour of China across the Indo-Pacific and tensions over the Russian military build-up on the borders of Ukraine.
Jaishankar is also expected to hold bilateral meetings with Australian foreign minister Marise Payne, Japanese foreign minister Hayashi Yoshimasa and US secretary of state Antony Blinken.
One of the issues expected to figure prominently in the meeting is the Quad vaccine partnership, and expediting the roll out of one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines across the Indo-Pacific. China’s aggressive actions, from the standoff on the Line of Actual Control to tensions in the South China Sea, are also expected to figure in the discussions.
Additional vaccine production came on line in India last year due to the Quad partnership’s financing of increased manufacturing capacity at India’s Biological E. A vaccine experts group is working to align the plans of Quad members to support health security and the Covid-19 response across the Indo-Pacific.
China’s aggressive actions, from the standoff on the Line of Actual Control to tensions in the South China Sea, are also expected to figure in the meeting. The situation in Myanmar and Afghanistan too is expected to be part of the discussions, people familiar with the matter said.
Military cooperation between the Quad members has increased in recent months and the navies of the four countries participated in the Malabar exercise for the second consecutive year in 2021. Japan has also signed agreements with India and Australia for mutual access to military facilities for logistics and support.
A statement issued by the US state department on Friday said the Quad partners are delivering results for the region by advancing cooperation on Covid-19 vaccine delivery, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime security, counter-terrorism, cyber-security, countering disinformation, climate change, and critical and emerging technologies.
It said secretary of state Blinken, who will be in Australia during February 9-12, and his Quad counterparts will discuss a “range of bilateral and global priorities” in Melbourne.