New Delhi, Aug. 20: India wants to work with China to ensure a “transparent” geopolitical architecture in the Asia-Pacific region, New Delhi communicated to Beijing today, trying to assuage its neighbour’s concerns over its growing cosiness with Japan and the US.
Foreign secretary Sujatha Singh’s message to Chinese deputy foreign minister Liu Zhenmin during the fifth strategic dialogue between the nations here was aimed at easing any misconception while making clear India’s strategic goals, senior government officials here told The Telegraph.
The signal from India comes at a time the interests of the two Asian giants in Afghanistan increasingly appear to be converging ahead of a Nato pullout in 2014 that threatens heavy investments both have made in the war-ravaged nation.
“We want to work with — and not against — China in ensuring our interests and the interests of the Asia-Pacific region are taken care of,” an official said. “Afghanistan is a key area we need to cooperate with them on, and we don’t see why our ties with Japan or the US should affect relations with China.”
While the tension in India’s relations with China at the Line of Actual Control — the de facto border — has grabbed headlines in recent months, New Delhi and Beijing are also jockeying over treasures buried under the South China Sea. China’s claim to a series of tiny islands currently held by the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan has heightened tensions in the region where Indian companies like the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) are aggressively exploring for crude oil.
In May, India and Japan agreed to strengthen economic and military ties during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Tokyo, drawing criticism in China where the trip was seen as a sign of Japan trying to co-opt India into an alliance against Beijing.
Those fears were fuelled further when US secretary of state John Kerry and Vice-President Joe Biden, in successive visits to India in June and July, asked New Delhi to take on a bigger role in the Asia-Pacific region. The US itself has again pivoted its priorities towards the region as its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down.
But India wants to temper those fears, officials said, ahead of a likely visit by Singh to Beijing later this year to sign a key border pact with China, as reported by this newspaper on August 6.
And in China, India is hoping for an ally in ensuring a stable Afghanistan after US-led troops withdraw in 2014. New Delhi wants Beijing to use its proximity to Islamabad to convince Pakistan against supporting militants in Afghanistan.
“What we’re telling the Chinese, and everyone else, is that an unstable Afghanistan will end up hurting everyone with strategic interests and investments there,” an official said.
Sujatha Singh and Liu discussed the Prime Minister’s proposed visit, and the tensions along the undefined border between the nations that exploded into a 21-day face-off between their militaries in Ladakh in April. The foreign secretary also raised India’s concerns over an increasingly lopsided trade relationship that currently favours China.