Third Quad ministerial meeting to discuss regional, global issues

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New Delhi, Feb 18 (PTI) External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will join his counterparts from the US, Japan and Australia on Thursday under the framework of Quad coalition to deliberate on ways to enhance cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of growing Chinese assertiveness in the region.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the ministers will exchange views on regional and global issues, especially practical areas of cooperation towards maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.

'The third India-Australia-Japan-USA ministerial meeting will be held on February 18 with participation of the respective foreign ministers,' the MEA said in a brief statement.

The Australian foreign ministry said the Quad is a key pillar of Australia's international agenda and that dialogue will allow the four nations to advance their shared interest in the region.

'The Quad's positive agenda will enable us to progress cooperation among four Indo-Pacific democracies across a range of areas, including to support the region recover from the economic and health impacts of COVID-19,' it said in a statement.

It will be the third ministerial meeting of the foreign ministers of Quad member countries and the first after the Joe Biden administration took charge in Washington. It will be held in the virtual format.

The evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific region in the wake of China's increasing military muscle flexing has become a major talking point among leading global powers. The US has been favouring making Quad a security architecture to check China's growing assertiveness.

The MEA said the meeting will provide an opportunity to continue the useful exchange of views from their last meeting in Tokyo in October last.

'The ministers will exchange views on regional and global issues especially practical areas of cooperation towards maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region,' it said.

'They will also discuss ongoing efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing global climate change and other issues of mutual interest,' the MEA said.

The Australian foreign ministry said the Quad partners are strong supporters of ASEAN centrality within a region in which all countries are sovereign, independent and resilient.

The 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a key stakeholder in the Indo-Pacific region.

In the midst of growing global concern over China's expansionist behaviour, the foreign ministers of the Quad member nations met in Tokyo on October 6 and reaffirmed their collective vision for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

The foreign minister of the four countries held their first meeting under the 'Quad' framework in New York in September 2019.

In November 2017, India, Japan, the US and Australia gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the Quad to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence. PTI MPB DV DV