External Affairs S. Jaishankar is to participate on Thursday in a virtual ministerial meeting of the Quad, according to the State Department.
The discussions between Jaishankar, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Foreign Ministers Marise Payne of Australia and Toshimitsu Motegi Japan “is critical to advancing our shared goals of free and open Indo-Pacific and rising to the defining challenges of our time”, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday.
He said that “coordinating our efforts like Covid-19 response, as well as climate change”, will also figure in their discussions, he said.
This meeting and another scheduled to Thursday between Blinken, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian makes “clear that the United States values, our alliances and work with our partners and friends around the world to pursue common interests across the world”, Price added.
President Joe Biden has reiterated the US commitment to developing the Indo-Pacific as a bulwark against China’s growing aggressiveness in the region.
The region became the focus of US strategic interest under former President Donald Trump who brought the threat from China to the countries in the region and to Washington’s global interests to the fore.
The Quad was revived in 2017 as the US pushed cooperation among the regional democracies to meet the China challenge.
Price mentioning cooperation in Covid-19 response and climate change indicates an interest in solidifying the Quad as a group with a broader regional agenda.
India is already providing Covid-19 vaccines to countries in the Indo-Pacific region.
At a separate briefing at the Pentagon, Defence Department Spokesperson John Kirby also emphasised the importance the US gave to defence ties with India.
Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin considers India “a critical partner, especially when you consider all the challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. And what I can tell you, plainly is that the Secretary is prioritising this relationship wants to see it continue to grow and develop and to get stronger”, he said.
Biden has made China the principal adversary of America, saying earlier this month that Washington will “take on directly the challenges posed”.
Later during a call he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “agreed to continuing close cooperation to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, including support for freedom of navigation, territorial integrity, and a stronger regional architecture through the Quad”, the White House said.
Since Biden assumed the presidency, officials the two countries dealing with defence and foreign policy have discussed the Indo-Pacific cooperation in phone conversations.
Blinken and Jaishanker have held two phone conversations.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austing, and National Security Advisers Ajit Doval of India and Jake Sullivan of the US have also talked.
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)