Quad leaders pledge to ensure 'free' and 'inclusive' Indo-Pacific

Together, we recommit to promoting free, open, rules-based order rooted in international law and undaunted by coercion, to bolster security and prosperity in Indo-Pacific and beyond, Quad leaders said

Quad leaders pledge to ensure 'free' and 'inclusive' Indo-Pacific

Lalit K Jha/PTI

The Quad leaders have pledged to ensure a "free and open" Indo-Pacific, which is also "inclusive and resilient", as they noted that the strategically vital region, witnessing China's growing military manoeuvring, is a bedrock of their shared security and prosperity.

The Quad or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue comprises India, the US, Japan and Australia.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison, Japanese premier Yoshihide Suga and US President Joe Biden after their first in-person Quad summit on Friday described it as an opportunity to refocus themselves and the world on the Indo-Pacific and on our vision for what they hope to achieve.

Together, we recommit to promoting the free, open, rules-based order, rooted in international law and undaunted by coercion, to bolster security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, the Quad leaders said in a joint statement.

"We stand for the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes, democratic values, and territorial integrity of states. We commit to work together and with a range of partners, the joint statement said.

The Quad leaders reaffirmed their strong support for ASEAN's unity and centrality and for ASEAN's outlook on the Indo-Pacific. We underscore our dedication towards working with ASEAN and its member states the heart of the Indo-Pacific region in practical and inclusive ways. We also welcome the September 2021 EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, they said.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is considered one of the most influential groupings in the region, and India and several other countries including the US, China, Japan and Australia are its dialogue partners. The 10 member countries of ASEAN are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

"On this historic occasion we recommit to our partnership, and to a region that is a bedrock of our shared security and prosperity a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is also inclusive and resilient," the Quad leaders said.

India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military manoeuvring in the resource-rich region.

China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea. China also has territorial disputes with Japan in the East China Sea.

The Quad leaders noted that since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused continued global suffering; the climate crisis has accelerated; and regional security has become ever-more complex, "testing all of our countries individually and together. Our cooperation, however, remains unflinching".

In their joint statement, the Quad leaders said with the Quad Vaccine Partnership's financing of increased manufacturing capacity at the Hyderabad-based Biological E LTD, additional production in India will come on line later this year.

In line with our March announcement, and recognising the continuing global supply gap, we will ensure this expanded manufacturing is exported for the Indo-Pacific and the world, and we will coordinate with key multilateral initiatives, such as the COVAX facility, to procure proven safe, effective and quality-assured COVID-19 vaccines for low- and middle-income countries. We also recognise the importance of open and secure supply chains for vaccine production, they said.

The Quad leaders said they have accomplished much to date despite months of pandemic hardship throughout the region and world. They welcome Biological E LTD's production, including through the Quad investments, of at least one billion safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2022.

Today, we are proud to announce an initial step towards that supply that will immediately help the Indo-Pacific and the world to end the pandemic. The Quad also welcomes India's announcement to resume exports of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, including to COVAX, beginning in October 2021, they said.

One of the key takeaways of the first Quad leaders' summit in March was the formation of the Quad Vaccine Initiative, a vaccine supply chain to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines for India, the US, Japan and Australia. The Biological E Limited was chosen for this role of producing a billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines.

The joint statement said Japan will continue to help regional partners purchase vaccines through USD 3.3 billion of COVID-19 Crisis Response Emergency Support Loan. Australia will deliver USD 212 million in grant aid to purchase vaccines for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. In addition, Australia will allocate USD 219 million to support last-mile vaccine roll-out and lead in coordinating the Quad's last-mile delivery efforts in those regions.

Building upon each of their regional infrastructure efforts, separately and together, Quad countries are launching a new Quad infrastructure partnership.

China in 2013 had launched the ambitious multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims at linking Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes. The BRI is seen as an attempt by China to further its influence abroad with infrastructure projects funded by Chinese investments all over the world.

The USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which connects Gwadar Port in Pakistan's Balochistan with China's Xinjiang province, is the flagship project of BRI. India has protested to China over the CPEC as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

As a Quad, we will meet regularly to coordinate our efforts, map the region's infrastructure needs, and coordinate on regional needs and opportunities. We will cooperate to provide technical assistance, empowering regional partners with evaluative tools, and will promote sustainable infrastructure development, the Quad leaders said in the joint statement.

The Quad leaders supported the G7's infrastructure efforts, and look forward to cooperating with like-minded partners, including with the EU. We reconfirm the G20 Quality Infrastructure Investment Principles and will re-energise our efforts to provide high-standards infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific, they said.

We reaffirm our interest in continuing our engagement with the Blue Dot Network. We emphasise the importance of supporting open, fair, and transparent lending practices in line with international rules and standards for major creditor countries, including on debt sustainability and accountability, and call on all creditors to adhere to these rules and standards, they said.

Recognising that their shared futures will be written in the Indo-Pacific, the Quad leaders said they will redouble their efforts to ensure that the grouping is a force for regional peace, stability, security, and prosperity.

Towards that end, we will continue to champion 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 East and South China seas, the joint statement said.

We affirm our support to small island states, especially those in the Pacific, to enhance their economic and environmental resilience. We will continue our assistance with Pacific Island countries on responses to the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 and on quality, sustainable infrastructure, as well as partners to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change, which poses especially serious challenges for the Pacific, they said.

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