Diplomacy

Australia backs India over Ladakh border conflict with China, riles Asian dragon

File Photo: Australian prime minister Scott Morrison with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi

By Amit Agnihotri

New Delhi: China, whose aggression along the Himalayan border in Ladakh as well as in the South China Sea has angered the western powers, is clearly riled at the growing convergence between the United States, India and Australia against the Asian dragon.

A day after Australian High Commissioner to India Barry O’ Farrell expressed deep concern over China’s destabilising action in the South China Sea and backed India over its Line of Actual Control stand-off with the Asian dragon, China’s Ambassador to India Sun Weidong took on Farrell in an online spat.

“We remain deeply concerned by actions in the South China Sea that are destabilising and could provoke escalation. Last week, Australia launched a note with the UN Secretary-General refusing China’s unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea,” Farrell had said in a statement yesterday after meeting India’s Minister of External Affairs (EAM) Dr S. Jaishankar.

Without naming China, Farrell backed India’s position in the ongoing India-China border standoff and nailed China for unilaterally changing the LAC.

“Australia urges restraint at LAC and supports continued moves by India for de-escalation. In my meeting with EAM today, I told him Australia opposes any attempts to unilaterally alter status-quo which only increase tension and instability,” he said.

Weidong, who advocated China-India peace at a webinar yesterday at a time when the Asian dragon is not honouring a mutually-agreed troop disengagement along the LAC in eastern Ladakh, was riled by Farrell’s remarks.

Farrell hit back saying Australia has rejected the claims made by China that are not consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and reminded the Chinese ambassador about the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Award, which is binding under international law and generally refrains China from actions that unilaterally alter the status quo. Farell tweeted today.

Of late, India too has come out against Chinese aggression saying the South China Sea saying is a global common, that all legal commerce and navigation must be allowed in the region and that any dispute must be settled by internal law and not by threats of use of force.

Farrell’s meeting with Dr Jaishankar follows the high-level virtual summit between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on June 4 during which the two leaders upgraded India-Australia relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and articulated their shared vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

The deepening of India-Australia relations has miffed China which sees the Quad comprising the US, Japan, India and Australia as a formation to counter the Asian dragon.

US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo too made some anti-China noises yesterday while he was speaking at a Senate foreign relations committee meeting.

Pompeo noted the Communist Party of China was the central threat to the US and mentioned the work being done by the Quad as well as India’s recent move to ban 106 Chinese apps over data security concerns. The US Secretary of State also talked about China’s recent claims on eastern Bhutanese territory to disrupt the South Asian nations.

“Our diplomatic efforts are working and momentum is building to mitigate the threats that the Chinese Communist Party presents. All 10 ASEAN nations have insisted that the South China Sea disputes be settled on the basis of international law, including UNCLOS. Japan led the G7‘s condemnation of China”s national security law targeting Hong Kong,” said Pompeo.

“Our QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) — the United States, Australia, India, and Japan — has been reinvigorated. I’m very proud of the progress we are making,” he said.

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