India cautious on arc to counter China

India has decided on a guarded approach to the call from the US and Japan to join other major Pacific Rim democracies such as Australia in creating an alternative arc of influence in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China's One Belt, One Road (Obor) initiative.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 28.10.17
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New Delhi: India has decided on a guarded approach to the call from the US and Japan to join other major Pacific Rim democracies such as Australia in creating an alternative arc of influence in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China's One Belt, One Road (Obor) initiative.

After US secretary of state Rex Tillerson pitched for expanding the India-Japan-US trilateral into a quadrilateral combination including Australia to emerge as an alternative to Obor, Japan's foreign minister Taro Kono proposed that such a grouping promote free trade and defence cooperation across a stretch of the ocean from the South China Sea across the Indian Ocean and all the way to Africa.

India is not averse to working with like-minded countries but poking the dragon in the eye is not something New Delhi wants to rush into. This was evident from a rather detailed response external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar came prepared with for a routine briefing on Friday.

Asked about the Japanese foreign minister's suggestion, Kumar said: "India is open to working with like-minded countries on issues that advance our interests and promote our viewpoint. We are not rigid in this regard.... As far as we are concerned, we have an open mind to cooperate with countries with convergence but obviously on an agenda which is relevant to us."

He sought to flag the fact that India, because of its broad acceptability, is already part of several trilateral initiatives involving all the four countries in question, including China.

The Russia-China-India trilateral met last year on Asia-Pacific issues.

The India-Sri Lanka-Maldives grouping on security matters and the India-Japan-US combine have been functioning for several years.

Kumar also referred to the India-Afghanistan-Iran grouping, adding that New Delhi was looking forward to hosting an India-Afghanistan-US meeting soon.

Last week, ahead of his maiden visit to India as US secretary of state, Tillerson had delivered a major policy statement on the Indo-US relations, making it clear that Washington wanted New Delhi in its corner in containing China's growing economic heft and expanding influence.

Although India stayed away from China's Obor conference in May on the ground that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, New Delhi is likely to weigh its options carefully vis-à-vis the proposed India-Japan-Australia-US quadrilateral whose agenda is to provide an alternative lending magnet to Beijing's deep pockets.

Kumar dismissed reports of a Chinese troop build-up near the face-off site in Doklam at the India-Bhutan-China tri-junction. He said there had been no new developments in Doklam and its vicinity since the August 28 disengagement.

"Status quo prevails in this area. Any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect and mischievous."