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China row in focus ahead of Jaishankar’s Quad meet

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S jaishankar

 External affairs minister S Jaishankar will visit Japan on October 6-7 to participate in the second ministerial meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, and to hold a series of bilateral meetings against the backdrop of India’s border standoff with China.

The objective of the meeting on October 6 is to tighten strategic cooperation and advance the goal of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. The meeting is expected to be followed by consultations at senior officials’ level in November.

Jaishankar is visiting Tokyo for bilateral consultations with his Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi and the two ministers are expected to discuss bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest, the external affairs ministry said.

“During the visit, the external affairs minister will also participate in the second India-Australia-Japan-USA ministerial meeting on 6 October, 2020, in which the foreign ministers of the respective countries will participate,” the ministry said in a statement.

The foreign ministers of Quad, which was upgraded to the ministerial level in September last year, will discuss the “post-Covid-19 international order and the need for a coordinated response to the various challenges emerging from the pandemic”, according to the statement.

The ministers will also discuss regional issues and “collectively affirm the importance of maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific”.

Jaishankar will also hold bilateral consultations with Australian foreign minister Marise Payne and US secretary of state Mike Pompeo during the visit.

The Quad meeting will discuss collaboration among Quad countries in counter-terrorism, cyber and maritime security, development finance, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, according to South Block officials. The ministers are also expected to discuss practical collaborations in developing advanced technologies including 5G and 5G-plus telecom standards as well as securing the sea lanes of communications in the Indo-Pacific.

There has been a sea change since the ministers met informally on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on September 26, 2019. Quad is expected to take steps towards an institutionalized dialogue at the meeting, where Chinese actions since the rise of global pandemic from Wuhan will come under the magnifying glass.

The Quad ministerial comes at a time when the Donald Trump administration has made a U-turn on US polices towards China, which were guided by the rapprochement policy tailored by Henry Kissinger 50 years ago under the Republican administration of Richard Nixon. The tough, new US policy towards Communist China was defined by US secretary of state Mike Pompeo in his Nixon Library address on July 24.

The Indian relationship with China has taken a 180-degree turn since the Chennai summit on October 11-12, 2019, after the People’s Liberation Army’s aggression in eastern Ladakh in May. The armies of the two countries are still locked in a staring match in Ladakh with both sides losing soldiers in the June 15 Galwan Valley flare-up; firing in the air followed in the first week of September after the Indian Army pre-empted the PLA south of Pangong Tso.

Australia’s relationship with China, its largest trading partner, has nosedived with Beijing imposing an 80% tariff on barley, launching an anti-dumping investigation of Australian wine, blocking Australian beef, arresting an Australian journalist and banning two academics from visiting China.

The situation with Japan is no different, with Chinese warmongering over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea forcing Tokyo to increase its defence budget to a record. Tokyo is also upset over new security laws in Hong Kong and pressure put on democratic Taiwan by Beijing.

The members of Quad, especially India, Japan and Australia, have also stepped up work on forging partnerships with like-minded countries in the region, or those with interests in the Indian Ocean, with an eye on China’s increasing assertiveness and aggressiveness.

Jaishankar recently said India and Japan were looking at cooperating on projects in Bangladesh and Myanmar as part of their efforts to work together in third countries.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin took aim at the Quad meeting, warning that no “exclusive clique” should be formed.

“Peace, development and global cooperation is the overriding trend of today’s world. Multilateral and plurilateral cooperation should all be open, inclusive and transparent. No one should seek an exclusive clique,” he said.

“Efforts should be made to enhance regional countries’ mutual understanding and trust, instead of targeting a third party or harming a third party’s interests.”

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