China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi says U.S. wants ‘Indo-Pacific NATO’

‘Setbacks’ in India-China relations do not suit both countries, says Wang

March 07, 2022 03:44 pm | Updated 04:01 pm IST - Hong Kong

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi. File

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi. File | Photo Credit: AP

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday accused the United States of trying to build an “Indo-Pacific NATO” using the Quad and its allies, and said “some forces” were seeking to “stoke tensions” between China and India as well as “sow discord” between China and Russia.

Mr. Wang, in his annual press conference along the sidelines of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) or Parliament in Beijing, also described China-Russia relations as “one of the most crucial bilateral relations in the world” and as being “rock solid”.

Underlining China’s position on the Ukraine crisis that while sovereignty needed to be respected, so did the legitimate security concerns of Russia, Mr. Wang declined to term Russia’s attack “an invasion” when asked by a reporter.

“We are determined that the relationship is free from interference and discord sown by third parties,” he said.

India-China ties

On the state of India-China relations, Mr. Wang acknowledged that “relations encountered setbacks in recent years, which do not serve the fundamental interest of two countries and people” and called for “relations to move forward on the right track to bring more benefits to our peoples and make greater contribution to the region and the world”.

“The boundary question is left over from history,” he said. “China has long advocated managing differences through equal-footed consultations, actively seeking a fair and equal settlement while not letting it affect or interfere with the bigger picture of bilateral cooperation. I am talking about issues relating to the boundary and territory. I think people should understand this.”

“Some forces have always sought to stoke tensions between China and India and divisions between regions,” he said. “Their attempts have put more and more people in reflection and on alert. More people have come to realise that for China and India, both major countries with over 1 billion populations, only by staying independent can we firmly grasp our own destiny and realise our goals of rejuvenation and development.“

“When our two countries achieve stability and prosperity and live in peace and harmony, global peace and prosperity will have a solid foundation,” he said. “As an Indian proverb goes, help your brother’s boat across and your own will reach the shore. We hope India will work with China to uphold the strategic consensus that the two countries pose no threat to each other and offer development opportunities to each other, continue to build mutual trust, avoid misunderstanding and miscalculation so that we will be partners for mutual success rather than adversaries for mutual attrition.”

While Mr. Wang implicitly appeared to be blaming the U.S. for “stoking tensions” with India and “sowing discord” with Russia, Indian officials see the downturn in India-China relations as being largely caused by China’s actions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) since April 2020.

Mr. Wang’s criticism of Washington was more explicit with regard to its Indo-Pacific strategy. He equated the U.S., Australia, India, Japan Quad grouping with the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance involving the Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the U.S. and U.K. and the AUKUS (Australia-U.K.-U.S.) defence pact.

“The U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy is becoming a byword for bloc politics,” he said. “It professes desire for international cooperation, but in reality is stoking regional rivalry. It talks multilateralism but in reality creates exclusive clubs. It claims international rules but in reality is setting and imposing rules suiting itself and its acolytes.”

“From Five Eyes and Quad to AUKUS,” he said, “the U.S. is staging a ‘54321’ formation in the Asia Pacific. It is by no means a blessing but a sinister move. The real goal for the Indo-Pacific strategy is to establish an Indo-Pacific version of NATO…. These perverse actions run counter to common aspirations of the region and are doomed to fail.”

The members of the Quad have rejected the notion that it is an Asian NATO or a military alliance, and pointed to its broad-based cooperation, including on vaccines and technology, besides maritime security.

On the NATO comparison, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar last month said “there are interested parties who advance that kind of analogies”. “I would urge you not to slip into that lazy analogy of an Asian-NATO,” he said of the comparison, pointing out India was not a treaty ally of the U.S. “We are not a treaty ally. It doesn’t have a treaty, a structure, a secretariat, it’s a kind of 21st century way of responding to a more diversified, dispersed world.”

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