External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken here on Friday and the two leaders reviewed the efforts to strengthen cooperation bilaterally and through the Quad grouping in the strategic Indian Ocean region.
During their talks on the sidelines of a key meeting of Quad foreign ministers here, Jaishankar and Blinken reviewed the bilateral ties and acknowledged that the progress in different domains of Indo-US relations was positive.
In his talks with Blinken, the External Affairs Minister discussed a range of bilateral as well as global issues.
"A review of our bilateral cooperation with @SecBlinken. The readout on progress in different domains was positive. Our strategic partnership has deepened so visibly,” Jaishankar tweeted.
"Good meeting with Indian External Affairs Minister @DrSJaishankar to discuss efforts to strengthen #IndoPacific cooperation bilaterally and through the Quad. I look forward to working together on issues that affect our two countries,” Blinken tweeted.
The two ministers are believed to have exchanged views on regional strategic issues given their shared vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, amidst China's aggressive behaviour in the region.
Jaishankar, who is visiting Australia on his first trip to the country as external affairs minister, later attended the 4th Quad Foreign Ministers’ Meeting along with the foreign ministers of Australia, Japan and the United States.
Australian Foreign Minister Payne, who is hosting the Quad foreign ministers’ meeting, said the Quad foreign ministers reaffirmed their support to principles of openness, protection of national sovereignty and observance of rules and fair play, in remarks seen as a message to China.
Jaishankar said the interactions made it evident that robust bilateral relations between the Quad countries, their strategic convergences and shared democratic values have all combined to make the Quad a vibrant and substantial framework.
He said the meeting reviewed the Quad's ongoing efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and agreed to expedite delivery of safe and affordable vaccines, support capacity building and augment infrastructure for last-mile delivery.
A joint statement issued by the Quad foreign ministers after the meeting said they reaffirmed the Quad’s “commitment to supporting Indo-Pacific countries’ efforts to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific – a region which is inclusive and resilient, and in which states strive to protect the interests of their people, free from coercion."
"We are focused on working closely with Indo-Pacific partners to address the region’s most important challenges. Working together as the Quad, we are more effective in delivering practical support to the region,” the statement said.
It said the Quad recognises that international law, peace, and security in the maritime domain underpins the development and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific.
“We reiterate the importance of adherence to international law, particularly as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to meet challenges to the maritime rules-based order, including in the South and East China Seas,” the statement added, in an apparent reference to China.
India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military manoeuvring in the region.
China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea. Beijing is also involved in a maritime dispute with Japan over the East China Sea.
It was the third in-person meeting of Quad foreign ministers, following their meeting in Tokyo in October 2020 and the inaugural meeting in New York in September 2019.
The ministers last held talks virtually in February last year.
In March last year, US President Joe Biden hosted the first-ever summit of the Quad leaders in the virtual format that was followed by an in-person summit in Washington in September for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had travelled to the US.
The Quad has been focusing cooperation in areas such as producing vaccines, connectivity projects, facilitating the mobility of students, and looking at promoting startups and technology collaboration.
The Quad vaccine partnership was announced in March last year with an aim to deliver one billion doses of vaccines to the Indo-Pacific region by the end of 2022.
It is learnt that there has been good progress under this initiative.