Australia for ‘peaceful’ end to standoff

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop with Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

Calling on “all claimants” to resolve the Doklam standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in Bhutanese territory, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the ongoing tension was the “subject of discussion” during her meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday.

“Australia’s position is that any territorial disputes should be resolved peacefully between the claimant countries,” Ms. Bishop told presspersons after her meetings in Delhi. “We don’t want to see any escalation of tensions which could lead to a miscalculation or misjudgment.”

Distinguishing between land boundary disputes and the maritime disputes China has with countries in the South China Sea, through which two-thirds of Australia’s trade passes, Ms. Bishop said, “In the case of maritime disputes, we said it should be subjected to arbitration under UNCLOS, if necessary. Land disputes should be resolved peacefully between the competing claimants and [I] urge the countries to do that.”

Global concerns

Ms. Bishop’s comments are significant as they come amid reports that several countries have raised concerns over growing tensions between India and China over the past month after Indian troops stopped a Chinese PLA road construction team on land claimed by Bhutan.

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, it is in “close communication” with various foreign missions over the situation at the tri-junction area near Sikkim, where hundreds of Indian and Chinese troops are now reportedly facing each other.

Ms. Bishop said her discussions with Mr. Modi had highlighted future defence cooperation between India and Australia that recently completed a bilateral naval exercise AUSINDEX and they spoke about training exercises between their troops as well.

To a question from The Hindu on whether India had explained why it rejected Australia’s request to join the Malabar exercises with the United States and Japanese navies, that concluded on Tuesday, Ms. Bishop said she had not asked for an explanation from the Indian leadership, and hoped Australia would be included next year, when the U.S. hosts the exercise. China had objected to the inclusion of Australia in the quadrilateral in the past, seen as one of the reasons for India’s decision this year.

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2021 4:18:50 PM |

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