India’s Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar on Tuesday affirmed India’s respect for territorial integrity, sovereignty and the peaceful resolution of disputes. He made the statement at the Second Quad Ministerial Meeting in Tokyo, amid India’s border tensions with China.

The “Quad” or Quadrilateral coalition comprised of India, Japan, the United States and Australia. Apart from Jaishankar, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi attended the meeting.

“As vibrant and pluralistic democracies with shared values, our nations have collectively affirmed the importance of maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific,” Jaishankar said while delivering his opening remarks at the meeting.

“We remain committed to upholding the rules-based international order, underpinned by the rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation in the international seas, respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty and peaceful resolution of disputes.”

— Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar

Jaishankar added that India’s objective was to further the security and the economic interests of all countries with vital interests in the Indo-Pacific region. “It is a matter of satisfaction that the Indo-Pacific concept has gained increasingly wider acceptance,” he added. “The Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative that we tabled at the East Asia Summit last year is a development with considerable promise in that context.”

The Indian foreign minister also called on “like-minded” countries to unitedly fight the challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic. “The events of this year have clearly demonstrated how imperative it is for likeminded countries to coordinate responses to the various challenges that the pandemic has brought to the fore,” Jaishankar said. “As we collectively navigate these uncharted waters, we seek to emerge from the pandemic more resilient than ever before.”

Meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Jaishankar and Pompeo held bilateral talks before the Quad meeting. Jaishankar said in a tweet that the US and India will collaborate for the development of the Indo-Pacific region.

“Pleased to see the progress of our partnership in so many fields,” he said. “Will work together for stability and prosperity in the Indo- Pacific.”

Ahead of the meeting, Pompeo had told Nikkei Asia that the Quad could be a “fabric” to counter Chinese threat. “Once we’ve institutionalised what we’re doing – the four of us together – we can begin to build out a true security framework,” Pompeo told the newspaper.

The US has repeatedly blamed China for the spread of the coronavirus and criticised the country over the security laws it introduced in Hong Kong in May.

India-China tension

Military heads of both India and China have engaged in several rounds of talks over the last three months after 20 Indian and unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed in violent clashes in Galwan Valley in June. But these talks have so far failed to break the impasse.

On September 22, both the countries had issued a joint statement about the sixth round of Corps Commander-level talks and said they resolved to stop sending more troops to the frontline. The statement added that both sides will refrain from unilaterally changing situation on the Line of Actual Control.

On September 10, S Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. The two ministers agreed on a five-point plan to defuse tensions between the countries and said the current situation in the border areas of Ladakh was “not in the interest of either side”.

On September 7, China had accused India of “outrageously firing warning shots” in a new confrontation on the southern bank of Pangong Tso lake, describing it as “a serious military provocation”. India had denied this, saying that Chinese troops had attempted to close in on Indian forward positions along the Line of Actual Control and had “fired a few rounds in the air”. This was the first confirmed use of firearms on the Line of Actual Control by troops in more than four decades.

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