New Delhi: The Quad foreign ministers on Friday vowed to ramp up cooperation to keep the Indo-Pacific region free from bullying, opposed “coercive” economic policies, denounced the use of terrorist proxies for cross-border terrorism and asserted that Afghan territory should not be used to threaten or attack any country.

The Ukraine crisis was also discussed at the fourth meeting of the Quad foreign ministers in Melbourne with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying that Russia would face “massive consequences” if it renewed aggression towards the Eastern European nation and that Washington is following an approach of diplomacy and dialogue to resolve the issue.

At a joint media briefing with his counterparts from the US, Australia and Japan, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said an agenda seeking to further the Quad’s shared vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific is being pursued to ensure peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region.

“As leading democracies, we pursue our shared vision of upholding a rules-based international order free from coercion, one based on respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, the rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation in the international seas, and peaceful resolution of disputes,” he said in his remarks at the meeting.

He said there is ample scope to work together on global issues such as terrorism, cyber security, maritime security, and disinformation and that India continues to pursue an “agile” and multidimensional strategy towards the Indo-Pacific.

“In the meeting, we reaffirm the Quad’s commitment to supporting Indo Pacific countries’ efforts to advance 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,” a joint statement said with a veiled reference to China’s bullying in region.

“Our meeting advanced the Quad’s positive and ambitious agenda. 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.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said that the next Quad Leaders’ Summit will take place in Japan in the first half of 2022.

The statement said that the Quad partners champion a free, open, and inclusive rules-based order, rooted in international law, that protects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of regional countries.

“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,” it said.

“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,” it said.

The Quad foreign ministers 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, infrastructure and financial channels that sustain them.

“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 the 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot attacks,” the joint statement said.

“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,” it said.

Without naming China, the Quad foreign ministers also resolved to meet challenges to the maritime rules-based order, including in the South and East China Seas.

The statement said the Quad is determined to deepen engagement with regional partners to strengthen maritime domain awareness, enhance the ability to develop offshore resources and ensure freedom of navigation and overflight besides combating challenges such as illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

Referring to the Russian military build-up along the border of Ukraine, Blinken said at the media briefing that every possible effort is being made to engage with Russia but made it clear that Moscow would face massive consequences if it chooses the path of “renewed aggression”.

“We have been putting together what those consequences would entail including economic, financial sanctions and export controls,” he said.

The Japanese foreign minister said the Ukraine issue was discussed and that his country supports protecting the sovereignty of the Eastern European nation.

“I have also reiterated Australia’s strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and we will continue to support our allies and partners to deter that sort of aggression and raise the cost for this kind of behaviour,” Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said.

The Quad joint statement said that the member countries remained gravely concerned about the crisis in Myanmar and called 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,” it said.

About the COVID-19 pandemic, it said that Quad partners have collectively provided more than 500 million vaccine doses and that they 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,” the statement said.

The Quad is looking 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,” the joint statement said.

“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,” it said.

Also read: UK PM Boris Johnson cites ‘a dangerous moment’ in Ukraine crisis

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