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India seeks to allay Chinese fears

India clarifies to China that the first quadripartite meet was not directed at any other country, reports Amit Baruah.

india Updated: Jun 25, 2007 03:59 IST
Amit Baruah

India has explained to China that the first-ever quadripartite meeting between the United States, Japan, Australia and India on May 24-25 in Manila was not directed at any other country.

This comes in response to Beijing seeking an explanation for why new format discussions were taking place.

New Delhi pointed out to Beijing on Sunday that it already had tripartite talks involving Foreign Ministers with China and Russia as well as the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Forum after China presented separate demarches, or diplomatic notes, to all four countries before the Manila meeting.

Given that India and China have a long-running border dispute, and New Delhi decided not to send a team of civil servants to Beijing last month after an Arunachal Pradesh cadre officer was refused a visa, such exchanges are bound to negatively impact the tone and tenor of their relationship.

Diplomatic sources told the Hindustan Times on Sunday that issues like disaster management, economic cooperation and energy questions came up for discussion at Manila during the meeting on the sidelines of an Asean Regional Forum (ARF) session.

All four countries also agreed to meet again to continue their dialogue.

Given the strategic possibilities inherent in a gathering of major Asia-Pacific powers like the US, Japan, Australia and India, China was rattled enough to seek an explanation for the motivation behind the meeting.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed a quadrilateral meeting to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Tokyo in December 2006 and India seemed open to the idea. “The two leaders share the view on the usefulness of having dialogue among India, Japan and other like-minded countries in the Asia-Pacific region on themes of mutual interest. The two governments will consult on the modalities,” a joint statement issued at the time said.

It’s not just India that has sought to downplay the significance of the quadrilateral meeting, but Australia as well, with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer going on record to say that the four countries were not “building some sort of security arrangement.”

“I don’t think India for example as one of the joint founders of the Non-Aligned Movement with Indonesia, would see itself as part of some kind of Asian NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) and I don’t think there is any vision here of establishing a kind of Asian NATO,” Downer told Radio Australia on June 19.

Earlier, Thomas Shieffer, US envoy to Japan, said he found it natural for Washington, New Delhi, Tokyo and Canberra, which shared basic values of democracy, freedom and market economies, to cooperate more in fields such as energy and disaster relief.

The vision of these “four great democracies working together, discussing, cooperating together would be a positive development for all of us individually and for the region,” Schieffer was quoted as saying by the Associated Press on June 15.

Additional Secretary (International Organisations) in the External Affairs Ministry, KC Singh, US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister, Chikao Kawai, and Jennifer Rawson, head of the international security division of the Australian Foreign Ministry, attended the Manila meeting.

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