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MANILA, Philippines – Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar completed a three-day working visit to Manila on Tuesday, February 15, his first in the Philippines.
Jaishankar made the stop in Manila after attending a meeting with the foreign ministers of Australia, Japan, and the United States at a summit held in Australia for the four-nation coalition called the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. Commonly known as the Quad, the grouping is considered an important part of Washington’s efforts to counter China’s influence in the region.
The Philippines was Jaishankar’s only stop in Southeast Asia.
In visiting, his message was clear: India and the Philippines are bolstering ties against the backdrop of China’s expansive ambitions and as the world slowly emerges from the emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are entering a new phase of our partnership. Its basis is the mutuality of national security and development aspirations,” Jaishankar tweeted on Tuesday.
During his visit, Jaishankar held a meeting with Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., reviewing ties between Manila and Delhi, as well as potential cooperation in health, trade and investments, science and technology, defense and security, and tourism.
“Expect to take forward a shared agenda through sustained engagement,” Jaishankar said.
Throughout the pandemic, India has played a key role in the Philippines’ vaccine drive, with significant supplies of shots either sourced or manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII).
One of the largest vaccine deals the Philippines has signed was with SII, for 30 million doses of the Novavax vaccine. Many of the country’s deliveries from AstraZeneca had also come from SII.
In the early months of the Philippines’ vaccine campaign, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. traveled to India to finalize supply agreements and secure earlier deliveries of shots. At the time, the Philippines’ vaccine drive had been held back by a lack of supply.
Galvez’s trip also yielded a potential agreement for the two countries to cooperate on the production of vaccines and other medicines in the Philippines, beyond the pandemic.
Last January, the Philippines also procured a $375-million package of BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missiles from India, seen by experts as a move to shore up defenses in the West Philippine Sea, where Manila is locked in a dispute with Beijing. India has its own territorial dispute with China in the Himalayas.
The sale of BrahMos missiles, regarded as the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile, was the first export order for BrahMos. In 2021, then-Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said the BrahMos missile is also the ideal weapon for their shore-based anti-ship missile project.
A summary of Jaishankar’s visit from the Department of Foreign Affairs regarded the Indian foreign minister’s trip as “an affirmation of the robust ties between the Philippines and India, as both countries prepare for closer interaction in the post-COVID world.” – Rappler.com