Expectations from the External Affairs Minister’s visit to Australia and the Philippines

Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. Image credit: Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India

Jhe Minister of External Affairs (EAM), MS Jaishankar will visit Australia and the Philippines for the first time as Indian EAM from 10-13 February and 13-15 February 2022 respectively. Both of these visits are significant as India has embarked on a journey to mark its footprints in the Indo-Pacific. With Australia, India shares the quadrilateral security dialogue which is increasingly important in the Indo-Pacific. On the other hand, the recent defense agreement worth $375 million with the Philippines for the delivery of the land-based BrahMos anti-ship missile system has given a welcome boost to the defense and security partnership. between Manila and New Delhi.

Mr. Jaishankar is expected to attend the 4and Quadruple meeting of foreign ministers on February 11 in Melbourne. Last year, the four foreign ministers of Japan, the United States, Australia and India had a virtual meeting due to the pandemic situation. This year, ministers are expected to discuss regional issues and deliberate on a common vision for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. They can also discuss infrastructure development in the Indo-Pacific, healthcare, Covid-19, supply chain disruptions and resilience as well as climate change. These are some of the concerns that require a comprehensive and holistic approach to address.

In the area of ​​infrastructure, Quad and non-Quad countries can cooperate with each other in the Indo-Pacific to advance sustainable efforts and progress. Japan’s Broader Quality Infrastructure Partnership, EU Strategy for a Globally Connected Europe, US Blue Dot Network, US-Japan-Europe Trilateral Infrastructure Australia, the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor through India and Japan are just some of the recent efforts by these countries to develop infrastructure in Indo-Pacific. Some of these initiatives are supply-driven and therefore require a more calculated approach to be demand-driven and increase sustainability. To minimize some of the challenges related to trade and infrastructure development in the Indo-Pacific, India, Japan and Australia launched the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) in April 2021 This initiative aims to tackle the supply chain vulnerabilities. However, the initiators of the SCRI have different international statutes trade, the financial and economic perspectives making the SCRI a difficult choice to set up and practice. Climate change is another challenge to stability in the Indo-Pacific. The physical impact of climate change includes food scarcity, water insecurity, forced migration and displacement. Climate-wise, countries will experience increases in average temperature, heat waves, frequent flooding and melting glaciers. These environmental and other non-traditional security threats may increase humanity’s tendency to become involved in traditional geopolitical competitions for resources leading to climate warfare, the race to acquire more weapons, the insurrection and the Conflicts. Given these responsibilities of the Indo-Pacific countries, it is natural for the Quad countries to discuss and try to address concerns together. The meeting of foreign ministers must address these issues.

Apart from the Quad FM level meeting, Mr. Jaishankar is also expected to co-chair the 12and Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue and first Foreign Ministers’ Cyber ​​Framework Dialogue with his Australian counterpart. According to the MEA, the Indian government’s press release, the foreign ministers of India and Australia are expected to see progress towards the “Implementation of the India-Australia Framework Arrangement on Cyber ​​and Cyber-Enabled Critical Technology Cooperation and the Subsidiary Plan of Action,” signed on the sidelines of the Virtual Leaders Summit of Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Scott Morrison in June 2020. Cybersecurity poses a another serious challenge for Indo-Pacific countries, particularly in terms of resources, regulatory frameworks and capacity building.

In the Philippines, EAM will meet with the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. and discuss regional and multilateral issues that are of common interest to both parties. In November 2020, the two leaders had co-chaired the virtual meeting of the Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation between India and the Philippines. As a member of ASEAN, which also shares maritime disputes with China over the South China Sea islands, the Philippines holds a notable position in India’s foreign policy. Manila and New Delhi also have a Joint Defense Cooperation Committee which held its first meeting in Manila in 2012. Joint working groups on trade, investment, agriculture, health and tourism are also operational between India and the Philippines.

Apart from G2G meetings and forums, EAM will also meet with Indian diaspora and business communities in Melbourne and Manila, reiterating India’s support for soft power mechanisms, including people-to-people contacts and cultural cooperation. New Delhi already has several agreements and memorandums of understanding with the two capitals in the areas of education, cultural exchanges and tourism. Such efforts will strengthen New Delhi’s partnerships with Australia and the Philippines.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

Shirlene J. Manley