No country can have a veto on India’s ties: S Jaishankar
The Indo-Pacific concept is a signal that India won’t be confined between the Malacca Strait and Gulf of Aden, and the country will work with partners such as France and Australia to ensure an open and inclusive region, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday.
Participating in a virtual discussion with his Australian and French counterparts, Marise Payne and Jean-Yves Le Drian, at the Raisina Dialogue, Jaishankar said no country can have a veto on India’s participation in groupings such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad.
Le Drian reiterated France’s legitimate role in the Indo-Pacific by pointing to the two million French inhabitants in the region, while Payne noted that the three countries have come together to work on issues such as pandemic response, vaccine distribution, and economic challenges triggered by the Covid-19 crisis.
“Indo-Pacific is a clear message that India will not be constrained between the Malacca Strait and Gulf of Aden. Our interests, our influence, our activities today go way beyond,” Jaishankar said while concluding the discussion.
“When we look at a larger canvas, we see Australia there, [and] France is very much a part of this canvas, historically, culturally, physically. There are a range of activities and projects on which we can all work together,” he said, adding that the three countries are comfortable working together.
The coming together of India, Australia, Japan and the US as the Quad, or the creation of a trilateral by India, Australia and France, is not aimed at any country, Jaishankar said.
Without naming anyone, he described the use of terms such as “Asian Nato” as a “mind game”.
“The idea that somehow because we come together, there is some sort of threat or messaging to others – I think people need to get over this. Using words like Asian Nato etc, this is a sort of mind game which people are playing. I can’t have other people sort of have a veto about what I’m going to discuss, with whom I’m going to discuss,” he said.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov had used the term “Asian Nato” in the context of emerging alliances in Asia at a joint news conference with Jaishankar in New Delhi on April 6. Hours before the virtual discussion at the Raisina Dialogue, Russian envoy Nikolay Kudashev reiterated Moscow’s criticism of the Indo-Pacific strategy, saying it was aimed at reviving Cold War-era structures.
Jaishankar told the discussion, based on the theme “Crimson tide, blue geometries: New partnerships for the Indo-Pacific”, that the Indo-Pacific concept is a reflection of contemporary realities at a time when groups of countries are looking to work together because multilateralism has fallen short.
“Indo-Pacific is a return to history, it reflects a more contemporary world. It is actually overcoming the Cold War, not reinforcing it,” he said.
Le Drian and Payne said their countries have adopted a pragmatic approach to work with other nations such as India to cope with challenges like maritime security, illegal fishing and terror financing.
“Fundamentally, the value of three nations like ours, three such strong democracies like ours [is] having the capacity to share… our responses to the pressures that are on regional multilateral institutions,” Payne said.
Le Drian added that France does not operate in a military format, though free movement and security of trade in the Indo-Pacific is very important to Paris, he said