After US meet, India treads softly on China

After US meet, India treads softly on China

Harsh Vardhan Shringla's comments were apparently aimed at sending out the message that India had no intention to be seen moving closer to the United States

Just days after hosting India-America 2+2 dialogue, New Delhi drove home the point that its vision for the Indo-Pacific region was distinct from that of the United States and not aimed at containing China – notwithstanding its six-month-long military stand-off with the communist country.

“We are not seeking to target or exclude any country, but create an environment that induces all countries to operate with respect for the sovereignty of others and in a manner consistent with international norms in global commons,” said Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla, who was on a visit to Paris on Thursday and Friday. He was speaking on New Delhi’s vision for the Indo-Pacific region while speaking at Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI) – a leading think-tank of France.

His comment was apparently aimed at sending out the message that India had no intention to be seen moving closer to the United States or tweaking its own Indo-Pacific strategy to make it overtly adversarial to China.

“The (Covid-19) pandemic period has witnessed geopolitical repositioning primarily by China and the United States,” said the Foreign Secretary. “The EU (European Union) has also formulated its position which has striking similarities with India particularly with regard to maintaining strategic autonomy and our commitment to effective and reformed multilateralism.”

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh hosted US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper, in New Delhi on Tuesday for the third India-America 2+2 dialogue. China’s belligerence – not only along its disputed boundary with India but also in Taiwan Strait as well as in the disputed waters of the South China Sea and the East China Sea and elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific region was on the agenda of the talks.

Pompeo used his opening remarks at the 2+2 dialogue as well as the joint press conference after the talks to continue the tirade launched by US President Donald Trump’s administration against the Communist Party of China. Though Jaishankar and Singh joined Pompeo and Esper at the press-conference, they refrained from publicly making any comment against the communist country – even as the soldiers of the Indian Army are still engaged in an eyeball-to-eyeball stand-off with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in eastern Ladakh.

Jaishankar, however, said that the Indo-Pacific region was a particular focus of his and Singh’s talks with Pompeo and Esper during the 2+2 talks. He also said that peace, stability and prosperity for all countries in the Indo-Pacific could be ensured “only by upholding the rules-based international order, ensuring the freedom of navigation in the international seas, promoting open connectivity and respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states.”