Amidst the continued Sikkim standoff at Doklam, PM Modi, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj discussed the issue with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who had arrived in New Delhi yesterday. This is the first time that New Delhi has raised the issue of a standoff between Indian and Chinese troops at the tri-junction with Bhutan, with a visiting foreign leader. Meanwhile, the Australian Foreign Minister’s carefully chosen words reflected kind of unease in the international community over the tension between India and China. Expressing concern over the possibility of an escalation of tensions between two global superpowers, Bishop who was in India for a two-day visit, has said Australia wanted a peaceful resolution as it could result in miscalculation and misjudgement. She also said her country opposes Beijing’s construction of artificial reefs and their militarization in the disputed the South China Sea, holding that freedom of navigation and trade must be ensured.
Contrary to that, Bishop welcomed the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax in India and said this will increase competitiveness, enable the country to open up its market and benefit from trade opportunities. India has commercial interests in the South China Sea and has been pressing for resolving the dispute as per the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, besides advocating freedom of navigation in the resource-rich area. The minister, who was delivering a lecture here, said at the same time that there was a need to engage with Beijing as it would be in no one’s interest to see the Chinese economy falter. Here is a list of top 5 things Julie Bishop said in India:
1. “Rising nationalism is leading to a narrow definition of national interest and a more transactional approach in negotiations. These factors reduce the prospects of multilateral cooperation in the collective interest.” The Australian foreign minister applauded India for successfully and peacefully resolving a long-running maritime dispute with Bangladesh in 2014 under the provisions of the United Nation’s Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
2. On Chinese construction of artificial reefs in the resource- rich South China, surge in military infrastructure and dispute with Indonesia, Vietnam and Philippines, the visiting minister said, “We continue to oppose the construction of artificial reefs and militarization of those structures in the South China Sea.”
3. Worried over the possibility of “escalation of tensions” between India and China, Bishop, on her part, urged New Delhi and Beijing to resolve the issue peacefully because Australia did not want to see any escalation that could result in “miscalculation” and “misjudgement”.
4. “It is important that all states respect international laws including the UNCLOS using it as a guide to resolving disputes,” she said while delivering the Second Indo-Pacific Oration, organised by think-tank ORF and the Australian High Commission.
5. “Our objective must be to encourage China to exercise its economic and strategic weight in a way that respects the sovereign equality of states that upholds and strengthen the rules-based order and benefits all nations,” she said.