It is for India and China to resolve eastern Ladakh dispute bilaterally, says Australia
New Delhi, June 01: As Indian and Chinese troops remained engaged in a tense standoff in eastern Ladakh, Australia on Monday said it was for India and China to resolve the row bilaterally and there was no role for any other country.
At the same time, Australian High Commissioner Barry O'Farrell said his government is concerned over the growing Chinese assertiveness in South China Sea as well as China's plan to enforce a security law in Hong Kong notwithstanding the widespread protests by its citizens.
"The issue is for China and India to resolve bilaterally. It is not an issue for Australia or any other country," he told reporters during an online media briefing when asked about the border standoff in eastern Ladakh.
He said issues around borders or territorial disputes are matters which are usually resolved bilaterally between the parties involved.
Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in a bitter standoff in several areas along the Line of Actual Control in mountainous eastern Ladakh for close to four weeks. Both the countries are holding talks at military and diplomatic levels to resolve the dispute.
Last week, US President Donald Trump offered to mediate between India and China to end the face-off. However, both India and China rejected the offer, saying they have bilateral mechanisms to resolve the dispute.
O'Farrell said India and Australia were aiming to boost cooperation in ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. China has been fast expanding military and economic influence in the Indo-Pacific region, triggering concern in various countries of the region and beyond.
The Australian envoy indicated that ways to boost cooperation between Australia and India in Indo-Pacific may figure during the online summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison on Thursday.
O'Farrell also said that the quadrilateral coalition among India, the US, Australia and Japan has been an effective forum in dealing with issues relating to the Indo-Pacific region.
"The Quad has been a very useful forum to coordinate common approaches relating to maritime security," he said.
In November 2017, the four countries gave shape to the long-pending "Quad" coalition to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence. The US has been pushing for a greater role for India in the Indo-Pacific which is seen by many countries as an effort to contain China's growing clout in the region.
Asked whether Australian companies operating in China were looking at shifting base to India in the wake of the global criticism of Beijing over the coronavirus pandemic, O'Farrell did not give a direct reply.
"I think India has reasons to be confident about achieving the goals it has set out, and of course, in part, those goals will flow from what has happened as a result of COVID-19. Equally it will also flow from the implementation of reforms the government of India has announced," he said.
On India-Australia bilateral ties, the envoy said a mutual logistics support agreement for deeper defence cooperation as well as a number of other agreements are expected to be finalised at the online summit between Prime Minister Modi and his Australian counterpart on Thursday.
"In the virtual summit between the two leaders, you will see the Australia-India relationship reaching a historic high, matched by an ambitious agenda by both countries on what we can achieve in the future," he told a group of journalists at an online briefing.
O'Farrell said the focus of the talks will be to boost cooperation in areas like public health, education, science and technology cooperation, cybersecurity and critical technology and defence.
"Over the past months and years, we have seen India and Australia work even more closely together on shared goals particularly in contributing to a more secure, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific," he said.
O'Farrell said further enhancing bilateral maritime security as well as expanding cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region would be the other key issues for talks.
On declining economic growth rate in India in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the envoy said he was optimistic about the Indian and Australian economies. "We have some of the wealthiest funds in the world and India is looking for foreign direct investment. There is a synergy between us," he said.