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Quad ministers underline shared vision for free and open Indo-Pacific
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 12 - 02 - 2022

India and its partners in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad on Friday reiterated their support for efforts aimed at ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific, and agreed to expedite the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines across the region.
During their fourth meeting in Melbourne, the foreign ministers of the four members of the Quad — India, Australia, Japan and the US — reviewed cooperation in several key areas such as the COVID-19 response, maritime security and the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific, and prepared the ground for the next Quad Leaders' Summit to be hosted by Tokyo in the first half of the year.
India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also met Autsralian Prime Minister Scott Morrison before their talks and discussed the realization of the vision outlined by the Quad leaders.
Jaishankar told a joint news conference after the ministerial meeting that the foreign ministers held productive discussions. He said the robust bilateral relations between the Quad members, their strategic convergences and shared democratic values helped make the Quad a vibrant and substantial network with a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The Quad members agreed to expedite the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and augment the last-mile delivery facilities, Jaishankar said. They will also work to uphold the rules-based trading system and continue their cooperation in counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and maritime domain awareness, he said.
Jaishankar said the Quad members would continue to support their partners in ASEAN to uphold peace and security in the region, and also take steps to strengthen people-to-people linkages through education and think tank linkages.
Payne cautioned that the rules-based system that the Quad members are committed to is "under pressure from authoritarian regimes" — an apparent reference to China's aggressive actions across the region. She said the Quad members would continue to support freedom of navigation and overflight across the Indo-Pacific.
Blinken explained that a free and open Indo-Pacific would mean that people will be free and live in open societies, countries will be able to choose their partners, and goods will flow freely. He also referred to "Russian aggression" in Ukraine and said such challenges to the rules-based world order could even have an impact on the Indo-Pacific.
The Quad members are working to produce one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and to donate 1.2 billion shots across the region, Blinken said.
As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Quad partners have collectively provided more than 500 million vaccine doses. 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," Blinken said.
Blinken said, "We welcome progress on the practical cooperation we lead as Quad Foreign Ministers 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 recognize 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," Blinken added.
The Quad is supporting regional neighbors 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," Blinken said.
Blinken said, "We condemn North Korea's destabilizing ballistic missile launches in violation of UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs), reaffirm our commitment to the complete denuclearization of North Korea consistent with UNSCRs, and reconfirm the necessity of immediate resolution of the issue of Japanese abductees." — Agencies

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