India a critical partner, says Pentagon; Quad foreign ministers to meet virtually on Thursday

Washington:  India is a critical partner, especially when one considers all the challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, the Pentagon said on the eve of the maiden Quad ministerial meeting under the Biden administration.

Quad ministerial is an informal grouping of four countries, namely, Australia, India, Japan and the United States.

India is a critical partner, especially when you consider all of the challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday.

State Department Spokesperson, Ned Price, told reporters at his daily news conference, I am pleased to announce that tomorrow (Thursday) morning, Secretary Blinken and his counterparts from Japan, Australia and India will speak together.

This discussion with the Quad foreign ministers is critical to advancing our shared goals of a free and open Indo-Pacific and rising to the defining challenges of our time, including coordinating our efforts on COVID-19 response as well as climate change, he said.

Recent media reports in Japan have stated that a Quad leadership summit was in the works. So far, there has been no confirmation from the Biden administration.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would be supportive of such a gathering, Kirby said in response to a question.

It (India) is a very important bilateral relationship that we have and particularly military-to-military relations. India is a critical partner, especially when you consider all of the challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, he said.

What I can tell you plainly is that the (Defense) Secretary is prioritizing this relationship, wants to see it continue to grow and develop and to get stronger and he looks very much looking forward to working on initiatives to do just that, Kirby added.

In an op-ed in Newsweek this week, India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Sing Sandhu had said that the deepening defense and strategic partnership constituted an important area of cooperation, which rests on a strong institutional framework for defense collaboration and the shared strategic interests.

This will be particularly important in Asia where we will work bilaterally and with like-minded partners to pursue a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific, while advancing the security and economic interests of countries with legitimate and vital interests in the region. And we will build on the deepening trade and investment linkages that create economic opportunities and jobs in both countries, Sandhu wrote.

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