Union External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday said that member countries of the Quad grouping – India, Australia, Japan and the United States – have vowed to work together for a “shared vision of a free, open and inclusive” Indo-Pacific region, reported PTI.

“We are keen to work together to further peace and stability and economic prosperity in the Indo-Pacific,” Jaishankar said. He made the statement at a press briefing after he held a meeting in Melbourne with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and his Australian counterpart Marise Payne.

Jaishankar said the talks made it clear that the bilateral relations between the Quad countries, their strategic convergence and shared democratic values combine to make the grouping a vibrant and substantial framework.

Jaishankar also said that the countries reviewed Quad’s efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

“As pandemic continues to impact us, we have undertaken collective efforts to address global health security, Quad vaccine initiative and our collective vaccine delivery,” the external affairs minister said, reported ANI. “These have been very crucial for countries in Indo-Pacific to meet these challenges.”

Jaishankar also said that the global geopolitical scenario had become more complex.

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

He also welcomed the Quad’s proposal to address global threats such as terrorism, boost maritime domain awareness and assist Indo-Pacific countries in the cyber security area.

“Taking forward Quad’s positive agenda, which our leaders endorsed last year, will take steps to strengthen our people-to-people linkages through education programmes and think tank dialogues,” the minister said. “We will work together to give shape and substance to a positive agenda to make it in the words of my Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a force for global good.”

This was the fourth meeting of foreign ministers of the Quad countries. They had earlier met in-person in Tokyo in October 2020 and in New York in September 2019. The ministers also held a virtual dialogue in February last year.

Ahead of their talks, Jaishankar, Blinken, Hayashi and Payne jointly called on Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Quad has always been an affirmative partnership: Antony Blinken

Blinken noted Quad has been and always will be an “affirmative partnership” and added that stronger the grouping gets, the more mutual benefits will be delivered.

“I was in Jakarta back in December, and I set out the United States vision for a free and open Indo- Pacific, which, more than any other region will shape the trajectory of the 21st century,” he said. “We talk about a free and open Indo Pacific a lot.”

The US secretary of state said that in a meeting on February 15, the Quad countries will devise global action plan for the pandemic.

“[The plan] will drive greater leadership and coordination across regions and sectors to end the pandemic, [and] will enhance our collaboration on disaster response and humanitarian assistance,” he added.

Quad a tool to stoke confrontation, says China

Meanwhile, Beijing on Friday said that the Quad alliance was a “tool” to Contain China’s rise and was a “deliberate move” to stoke confrontation, PTI reported.

China has been opposing the Quad alliance since its formation in November 2017.

“I want to stress that the Cold War is long gone and any attempt to create an alliance as aimed containing China will not be popular and such moves are doomed to fail,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a press briefing on Friday.