The foreign ministers of the Quad grouping of India, the United States, Australia and Japan on Friday vowed to work vigorously to achieve the grouping's shared vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and collectively deal with common threats such as terrorism.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Australia's Marise Payn held the talks in Melbourne.
At a joint media briefing after the talks, Payne said the Quad foreign ministers reaffirmed their support to principles of openness, protection of national sovereignty and observance of rules and fair play, in remarks seen as a message to China.
Jaishankar said the interactions made it evident that robust bilateral relations between the Quad countries, their strategic convergences and shared democratic values have all combined to make the Quad a vibrant and substantial framework.
"We are building an agenda which seeks to further our shared vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific," Jaishankar said.
"We are keen to work together to further peace and stability and economic prosperity in the Indo-Pacific," he added.
Jaishankar said the meeting reviewed the Quad's ongoing efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and agreed to expedite delivery of safe and affordable vaccines, support capacity building and augment infrastructure for last-mile delivery.
Ahead of their talks, Jaishankar, Blinken, Hayashi and Payne jointly called on Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
'A long and productive day in Melbourne. Just finished the 4th Quad Foreign Ministers' Meeting. Impressed by the progress we have made,' Jaishankar said on Twitter.
In the meeting with the Quad foreign ministers, Morrison talked about the importance of the grouping in the context of current geopolitical developments.
"We live in a very fragile, fragmented and contested world, and that is no more accentuated than here in our Indo-Pacific, and the like-minded partners that we see gathered together in this Quad, I always find so incredibly reassuring," he said.
The Australian prime minister said that he was reassured by the incredible support that Australia has received by its Quad partners, and that he did not mean it only in a security context.
"I mean that in terms of our economic partnership and cooperation. I mean that in our humanitarian partnership. I mean that in terms of how each of us stands for a world order that favours freedom, and particularly here in a free and open Indo-Pacific. And I want to thank you for all of that," he said.
He said the Quad countries are working together on many shared projects and the partnership is not only about the traditional regional security issues.
"And the things we discussed today are principally how we will continue to always stand up for our values, which combined, which is what unites us most. Secondly, I think, in doing so, we stand up to those who would seek to coerce us," he said.
"And as I understand from our Quad partners, none of you know, understand better than we do, and that is a great comfort to us, that the coercion and the pressure that Australia has been placed under. We greatly appreciate your support," he added.
Australian Foreign Minister Payne said on Thursday that the fourth meeting of the Quad foreign ministers would focus on coronavirus vaccine distribution, countering terrorism and cooperation in maritime security and climate change.
Payne had also highlighted the need for ensuring that all Indo-Pacific nations are able to make their own strategic decisions, free from coercion, in remarks seen as a veiled reference to China's increasing bullying in the region.
It was the third in-person meeting of Quad foreign ministers, following their meeting in Tokyo in October 2020 and the inaugural meeting in New York in September 2019.
The ministers last held talks virtually in February last year.
In March last year, US President Joe Biden hosted the first-ever summit of the Quad leaders in the virtual format that was followed by an in-person summit in Washington in September for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had travelled to the US.
The Quad has been focusing cooperation in areas such as producing vaccines, connectivity projects, facilitating the mobility of students, and looking at promoting startups and technology collaboration.
The Quad vaccine partnership was announced in March last year with an aim to deliver one billion doses of vaccines to the Indo-Pacific region by the end of 2022.
It is learnt that there has been good progress under this initiative.
The production of Johnson and Johnson's Janssen vaccines started at India's Biological E facility in Hyderabad in October last year with the assistance of the US Development Financial Cooperation (DFC) through a credit line of USD 50 million to augment manufacturing capacity.
India is also open to supplying safe and affordable Made in India vaccines, such as COVOVAX and CORBEVAX, under the Quad vaccine partnership.
Following the launch of the Quad working group on critical and emerging technologies in March last year, four subgroups were established, with each country leading on one group.
The Quad is pursuing work on 5G technology and vendor diversification to maintain a diverse, open and interoperable telecommunication ecosystem through collaboration with like-minded partners.