Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar (2nd from right) with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne (2nd L) and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi (R) at the 4th Quad Foreign Ministers'  Meeting in Melbourne, Australia on Friday, February 11, 2022. (IANS)

Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar (2nd from right) with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne (2nd L) and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi (R) at the 4th Quad Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Melbourne, Australia on Friday, February 11, 2022. (IANS)

Quad nations reaffirm commitment for a free and open Indo-Pacific

Melbourne, February 12, 2022

The Quad nations -- Australia, India, Japan and the United States -- on Friday reaffirmed their commitment to supporting the efforts of the countries of the region for 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.

"Our meeting advanced the Quad’s positive and ambitious agenda," said a joint statement issued after the 4th Quad Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Melbourne.

"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," it said.

The meeting was attended by Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, U S Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Australia Foreign Minister Marise Payne.

"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. We are determined to deepen engagement with regional partners, including through capacity-building and technical assistance, to strengthen maritime domain awareness; protect their ability to develop offshore resources, consistent with UNCLOS; ensure freedom of navigation and overflight; combat challenges, such as illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; and promote the safety and security of sea lines of communication," the statement said.

The meeting also denounced the use of terrorist proxies for cross-border terrorism and urged countries to work together to eliminate terrorist safe havens; disrupt terrorist networks and the infrastructure and financial channels which sustain them; and halt cross-border movement of terrorists.

The group said that it was exchanging information on ever-evolving threats and working with Indo-Pacific countries, and in multilateral fora, to counter all forms of terrorism and violent extremism.

"In this context, we call on all countries to ensure that territory under their control is not used to launch terror attacks and to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of such attacks. We reiterate our condemnation of terrorist attacks in India, including 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot attacks. We reaffirm UNSC Resolution 2593 (2021) that Afghan territory should not be used to threaten or attack any country, shelter or train terrorists, or plan or finance terrorist acts, with such ungoverned spaces being a direct threat to the safety and security of the Indo-Pacific," the statement said.

The Foreign Ministers said the Quad was supporting regional neighbours to build resilience and counter disinformation.

"We will also coordinate efforts to assist partners across the Indo-Pacific to address the growing threat of ransomware, by strengthening capacity building to ensure resilient cyber security and to counter cybercrime. We are committed to promoting international peace and stability in cyberspace, and to helping build the capacity of regional countries to implement the UN Voluntary Framework for Responsible State Behaviour in Cyberspace," they said.

"As unwavering supporters of ASEAN unity and centrality, and the ASEAN-led architecture, we continue to support ASEAN partners to advance the practical implementation of ASEAN’s Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. The Outlook’s principles are fundamental to regional stability and prosperity and will be key to guiding the region’s economic and political future.

"We acknowledge the importance of sub-regional mechanisms and institutions, including in the Mekong sub-region. We will continue to support Cambodia in its important role as 2022 ASEAN Chair," the statement said.

The meeting noted that Quad partners had collectively provided more than 500 million vaccine doses to counter the COVID-19 pandemic, now in its third year.

"Together, we have pledged to donate more than 1.3 billion vaccine doses globally. We are pleased with the Quad Vaccine Partnership’s rapid progress in expanding vaccine production at the Biological E Ltd facility in India, which aims to deliver at least 1 billion vaccines by the end of 2022. We look forward to the delivery of the first batch of Quad-supported vaccines in the first half of this year. We are assisting to train healthcare workers, combat vaccine hesitancy and augment infrastructure, especially cold chain systems, for ‘last mile’ vaccine delivery. We are working to identify and address vaccine gaps and barriers exacerbated by gender, disability and social inequities, and ensure safe, effective, affordable and quality-assured vaccination coverage in hard-to-reach areas. We welcome the timely initiative for coordinating the response to combat the COVID pandemic under a Global Action Plan for Enhanced Engagement," it said.

The Ministers also welcomed progress on the practical cooperation to address regional challenges, including humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR), maritime security, counter-terrorism, countering disinformation and cyber security.

"We are strengthening HADR cooperation in the region. Since 2004, when we collaborated in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami, Quad partners have continued to respond quickly and effectively to natural disasters in the Indo-Pacific. We recognise that recent natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the need to build and maintain resilience against such events, and are proud to be supporting our Tongan partners in their response and recovery efforts following the January 2022 volcano eruption and tsunami. We commit to further strengthening our collaboration and building links between our response agencies to provide timely and effective HADR support to the region.

"Quad partners champion the free, open, and inclusive rules-based order, rooted in international law, that protects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of regional countries. We reaffirm our commitment to upholding and strengthening the rules-based multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organization at its core. We oppose coercive economic policies and practices that run counter to this system and will work collectively to foster global economic resilience against such actions.

"We express our commitment to strengthen our diplomatic efforts so that the vision for technologies, guided by the Quad Principles on Technology Design, Development, Governance, and Use, will be further shared by all like-minded nations," the statement said.

"Reflecting Quad leaders’ commitment to cooperate to establish responsible and resilient clean-energy supply chains, we welcome Australia’s proposal to host an Indo-Pacific Clean Energy Supply Chain Forum in mid-2022.

"We reaffirm our belief that our people-to-people ties are among the Quad’s greatest strengths and welcomed the United States’ new exchange programs in the fields of cyber security, maritime security, countering disinformation, and promoting transparency in governance. We are exploring a track 1.5 dialogue between our respective strategic thinkers.

"Alongside our Quad Foreign Ministers’ agenda, we welcome other ongoing work in delivering Quad Leaders’ ambitious initiatives in key areas, such as the Quad Vaccine Partnership, climate change, cyber security, infrastructure, and the peaceful use of outer space, education, and critical and emerging technologies.

"We remain gravely concerned about the crisis in Myanmar and call for an end to violence, the release of all those arbitrarily detained, including foreigners, and unhindered humanitarian access. We reaffirm our support for ASEAN efforts to seek a solution in Myanmar and call on the military regime to urgently implement ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus and swiftly return Myanmar to the path of democracy. We encourage the international community to work together to support an end to the violence.

"We condemn North Korea’s destabilising ballistic missile launches in violation of UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs), reaffirm our commitment to the complete denuclearisation of North Korea consistent with UNSCRs, and reconfirm the necessity of immediate resolution of the issue of Japanese abductees," the statement said.

"We look forward to Japan hosting the next Quad Leaders’ Summit in the first half of 2022.

"We will continue to meet annually to deliver as a force for good for the region," it added.

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