Jaishankar to visit Australia next week for Quad meeting

Updated on Feb 05, 2022 07:05 AM IST

The foreign ministers of the four members of Quad – India, Australia, Japan and the US – had met virtually in February 2021

This will be the first foreign visit of the year for Jaishankar, after recovering from Covid-19, and also his first trip to Australia since he became the foreign minister.(PTI)
This will be the first foreign visit of the year for Jaishankar, after recovering from Covid-19, and also his first trip to Australia since he became the foreign minister.(PTI)
ByRezaul H Laskar I Edited by Shilpa Ambardar, New Delhi

External affairs minister S Jaishankar will travel to Australia next week to attend the fourth meeting of foreign ministers of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad that is expected to focus on the group’s Covid-19 vaccine partnership and security across the Indo-Pacific.

This will be the first foreign visit of the year for Jaishankar, after recovering from Covid-19, 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 – had met virtually in February 2021. The two-day meeting, 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.

Earlier this week, Payne had released a statement saying that the Quad is a “vital network of liberal democracies cooperating to give our region strategic choices, with a focus on practical steps to build the resilience and sovereignty of all states”. The upcoming ministerial meeting of Quad is a further demonstration of the Australian government’s “efforts to actively shape and influence our region and world by deepening partnerships at a time of strategic competition, threats to liberal international order and increasing uncertainty”.

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. The vaccines will be made in India with US and Japanese financing and Australia providing logistics for delivery.

Additional vaccine production came on line in India last year due to the Quad partnership’s financing of increased manufacturing capacity at India’s biotech firm Biological E. A vaccine experts group is working to align the plans of Quad members to support health security and 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. 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 that 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.

Secretary of state Antony 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, said the statement.

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