External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will begin a visit to Australia on Thursday and attend a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Quad (India, Australia, United States, Japan), which is expected to discuss cooperation on vaccines, technology and regional security issues including related to China.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said Friday’s Quad meeting, during Mr. Jaishankar’s first visit to Australia as EAM, will see the four ministers “exchange views on regional strategic issues given their shared vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.” “The Ministers will review ongoing Quad cooperation and build on the positive and constructive agenda announced by the Leaders at the two Summits in 2021, to address contemporary challenges such as the COVID pandemic, supply chains, critical technologies, climate change, infrastructure etc,” the MEA said.
In Australia, Mr. Jaishankar will also hold a dialogue with his Australian counterpart Marise Payne. The visit will be followed by a trip to the Philippines on February 13. India and the Philippines last month signed a landmark $375 million deal for the supply of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. The MEA said the visits would “impart further momentum to bilateral relations with our key partners in the Indo-Pacific, Australia, and the Philippines, which is also a leading member of ASEAN.”
While the MEA statement did not mention China, U.S. officials said ahead of the meeting that the Quad would discuss “challenges that China poses”.
“The Quad is an informal grouping of likeminded democracies who share many interests, principles, and values vis-à-vis the kind of region that we want to live in – a region based on a rules-based order in which all countries big and small follow the rules, a region in which disputes are resolved peacefully, and in which countries have the freedom to make their own sovereign choices,” Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink said, adding that the four Foreign Ministers “will discuss challenges to that order and to those values” and “part of that discussion will relate to the challenges that China poses to those values and to that rules-based order in a number of sectors.”
China reacted sharply to that statement on Wednesday, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian saying the U.S. “despite its ruined democratic brand still forces other countries to accept its democratic standards and cobbles together cliques by drawing the ideological line.” Of the Quad, he said China “hopes the U.S. and other countries concerned will grasp the trend of the times, adopt a proper mindset and discard the Cold War mentality” and “contribute more to regional peace, stability and prosperity instead of putting a strain on the relations between regional countries.”
The Quad Foreign Ministers meet is expected to lay the groundwork for the second Quad leaders summit likely to take place this summer. In September last year, the four leaders, meeting in Washington for the first time, laid out an ambitious agenda for the grouping, from cooperating on vaccines to regional infrastructure and critical technologies such as 5G.
The four countries pledged to donate more than 1.2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses globally and produce at least 1 billion doses by the end of 2022. In March last year, the four countries also set up a new critical and emerging technologies group focusing on 5G, technical standards and technology supply chains. Also in the works is a joint initiative to “identify vulnerabilities” and “bolster supply-chain security” for semiconductors.