S Jaishankar slams cold-war mindset on Indo-Pacific

S Jaishankar almost echoes Chinese Foreign Minister to slam cold-war mindset on Indo-Pacific

His remarks come in the wake of China's increasing military muscle-flexing in the region

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. Credit: PTI Photo

With a change of guard imminent in the White House, India has re-asserted its strategic autonomy and underlined that its policy for the Indo-Pacific region has been distinct from the one pursued by the United States during President Donald Trump stint in the Oval Office.

“(The concept of) Indo-Pacific is also a rejection of spheres of influence and all that this may imply,” External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Friday, signalling that India would not give up its strategic autonomy and turn into an ally of the United States in the region despite its more-than-six-month-long military stand-off with China.

“It (the concept of Indo-Pacific) is a reiteration that the world cannot be frozen for the benefit of a few, even if that is the case with the United Nations. It is an indication of our future, not a throwback to the past. Only those harbouring a Cold War mindset will see such intentions,” the External Affairs Minister said. He was delivering a speech during a webinar on “Indo-Pacific and the Covid-19 crisis”.

Jaishankar almost echoed the words of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who last month said that the Trump Administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy was “to trumpet the old-fashioned Cold War mentality to stir up a confrontation among different groups and blocs and to stoke geopolitical competition, in a bid to maintain the dominance and hegemonic system of the United States”.

The Indian Army has been over the past six months resisting the aggressive moves by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to change the status quo along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) – the de facto boundary between the two nations in the western sector. The stand-off between the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA in eastern Ladakh renewed focus on India’s strategic convergence with Australia, Japan and the United States in Indo-Pacific over the past few months. India already had a military logistics sharing agreement with the US. It signed similar agreements with Australia and Japan in June and September. It had several naval drills with the US and Japan during the past few months.

New Delhi of late also invited the Australian Navy to take part in the Malabar 2020 naval exercise, which remained an annual drill by the navies of India, Japan and the US till last year. The Malabar 2020 added a military heft to the ‘Quad’ – hitherto an informal coalition of India, Japan, Australia and the US – amid growing belligerence of China, not only in eastern Ladakh but also in Taiwan Strait and the disputed waters of the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

India, however, remained cautious and carefully avoided to be seen moving into the orbit of influence of the US. The remarks of the External Affairs Minister on Friday indicated that India was also keen to ensure that its strategy for Indo-Pacific, unlike that of the US, did not turn overtly adversarial to China.