'Indo-US stand on South China Sea avoidable'

'Indo-US stand on South China Sea avoidable'

'Indo-US stand on South China Sea avoidable'

China on Wednesday said it will have no problem with close Indo-US ties, but was only concerned about “unnecessary” references in their interactions to the contentious South China Sea issues. 

Within 10 days of US President Barack Obama’s visit to India, during which the two sides issued a joint communiqué with references to issues involving the South China Sea, Chinese Ambassador Le Yucheng said Beijing had no issues with US President Barack Obama’s high profile visit.

The US President had undertaken a similarly successful bilateral visit to China just a few months ago. But the reference to the contentious South China Sea disputes, to which neither India nor the US had any claims, in the Indo-US joint communique in New Delhi was unnecessary, the Ambassador felt. 

Le, at an interactive session with Deccan Herald here, said there was also no need to refer to the freedom and security of navigation in the South China Sea waters. 

“We haven’t recorded a single incident that threatens the freedom and security of any nation in the South China Sea. Sixty per cent of our imports/exports go through this area. China is, more than anyone else, interested in keeping these waters safer and free for navigation,” he said. 

The Chinese ambassador said he had learnt through his contacts with high-level Indian officials that the reference to the South China Sea was made at the US behest. “They told me that they are really with China on this matter. But they had some concerns from the US.”

Le, however, said there was determination on Indian and Chinese sides to take the India-China ties to new and intensive levels of engagement. The imminent opening of the Nathula Pass border crossing point for Indian pilgrims visiting Kailash-Mansarovar in China could boost India-China people-to-people contacts. 

An MoU to this effect was just finalised during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s recent visit to China, the Ambassador said. 

NathuLa was opened for border trade a decade ago. The ambassador said the first batch of Indian pilgrims would be China in June this year. “It is a new road, it will provide more convenience. You can sit in a car and drive to Kailash-Mansarovar. In the years to come, we can have increased numbers of pilgrims from the current 250 to 1,000 and more.” 

On Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s China visit, he said that it was expected before May 26, well within the first year of his assuming office. 

Le, who advocated strong bilateral trade and investment ties, also sounded optimistic about resolving the long-pending boundary issue. He felt the dispute would be addressed through talks and a combination of quiet diplomacy, frequent dialogues, political will, mutual concessions, trust and compromise would be the right approach. 

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