External affairs minister S Jaishankar will participate in the fourth Quad foreign ministers’ meeting in Melbourne on February 11 with his counterparts from Australia, Japan and the US. He will later fly to the Philippines

NEW DELHI: External affairs minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday embarked on a visit to Australia and the Philippines to participate in a meeting of foreign ministers of the security grouping, Quad, in Melbourne and to take forward New Delhi’s growing ties with Manila.

This is Jaishankar’s first visit to both countries since he became the external affairs minister in 2019. The upcoming meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Group is expected to focus on the rollout of the grouping’s Covid-19 vaccine partnership. The visit to the Philippines assumes significance as the Southeast Asian nation became the first foreign customer for the BrahMos cruise missile.

During a stopover in the Qatari capital of Doha on Wednesday, Jaishankar held talks with the deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani. He said in a tweet they discussed the “broad based political, economic, digital and security partnership” and exchanged views on global and regional developments, including Afghanistan.

Jaishankar appreciated Qatar’s interest in expanding investment and trade. He also unveiled the foundation stone of a new embassy complex in Doha at an event attended by Al-Thani.

Jaishankar will participate in the fourth Quad foreign ministers’ meeting in Melbourne on February 11 with his counterparts from Australia, Japan and the US.

“It will be an opportunity for the ministers to follow up on their virtual meeting held in February 2021 and exchange views on regional strategic issues given their shared vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region,” the external affairs ministry said.

The foreign 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 challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic, supply chains, critical technologies, climate change and infrastructure, the ministry said.

The discussions are also expected to prepare the ground for the next Quad Leaders Summit to be hosted by Japan in the first half of the year.

Jaishankar and his Australian counterpart Marise Payne will co-chair a foreign ministers’ framework dialogue on February 12 to review the progress of the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership and to discuss bilateral, multilateral and regional issues.

On the same day, Jaishankar and Payne will co-chair the first foreign ministers’ cyber framework dialogue. They will assess the progress made in implementing the India-Australia framework arrangement on cyber and cyber-enabled critical technology cooperation and a subsidiary plan of action which they had signed in June 2020 on the sidelines of a virtual leaders’ summit between the prime ministers of the two countries.

Jaishankar is also scheduled to meet Australian political leaders, academics, business people, and the Indian diaspora and students.

From Australia, Jaishankar will visit the Philippines during February 13-15. He will hold talks with his counterpart Teodoro Locsin and review bilateral relations since a virtual meeting of the joint commission on bilateral cooperation in November 2020. They will also discuss regional and international issues.

In addition to meetings with the political leadership of the Philippines, Jaishankar will interact with the Indian community in Manila.

“The visit is expected to 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,” the ministry said.

On January 28, India’s BrahMos Aerospace and the Philippines signed a deal worth almost $375 million for the Philippine Marines to acquire three batteries of BrahMos cruise missiles, giving a boost to New Delhi’s efforts to emerge as an exporter of major defence hardware.