As ties between India and the UK expand, China has taken a strong exception to the meeting between India’s External Affair Minister S Jaishankar and UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and blamed the US for increasing focus on the region.
China believes that it is the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy which is now being followed by its allies like the UK. A Global Times report says the US is the reason for increased attention towards the region.
The state-run Global Times claims that Washington wants to promote its “smart power” by using its allies while its own national power is declining. The US wants to bring these NATO allies to the Asia-Pacific region to safeguard its own geopolitical interests, the media report says.
The UK has also announced to deploy its aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, in the Indian Ocean for its first operational mission by 2021 with British and US Marine Corps F-35Bs onboard.
India, for its part, invited UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the chief guest of its Republic Day celebrations. Accepting the invitation, Johnson had said: “As a key player in the Indo-Pacific region, India is an increasingly indispensable partner for the United Kingdom as we work to boost jobs and growth, confront shared threats to our security and protect our planet”.
Unlike India, the UK-China ties hit a low in 2020. Britain has been critical of Beijing over the imposition of national security law in Hong Kong and its crackdown on pro-democracy protestors. In another blow to Beijing, the UK has decided to completely remove China’s Huawei Technologies from its 5G networks by 2027.
China’s Aggressive Posture
India has been increasing cooperation with other countries amidst the border stand-off with China in the Himalayas. The seven-month-long stand-off has witnessed violent clashes, in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
Last month, the Indian Navy had conducted the Malabar exercise with the navies of the US, Australia, and Japan, all of whom are countering China’s expansionism. India has also signed defense agreements with the US to increase cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
On Thursday, the US defense bill, cleared by the Congress, has slammed Chinese aggression along the border with India. It has urged Beijing to settle the dispute through “existing diplomatic mechanisms” and “refrain’’ from using force and coercion.
It also says that “attempts by the Government of China to advance baseless territorial claims, including those in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and with respect to Bhutan, are destabilizing and inconsistent with international law”.
Talks Between India and the UK
The talks between Jaishankar and Raab focused on increasing cooperation and confront “shared security threats”. While after France, the UK is the second European country to deepen ties with India amid China’s rising aggression; its large focus is to enhance its presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Jaishankar and Raab, who met in New Delhi on Tuesday, reportedly discussed a proposed free trade agreement at length, which is likely to be signed during Johnson’s visit to India on Republic Day in January 2021. The two sides also discussed a 10-year roadmap focusing on cooperation in connecting people, trade, defense and security, climate change, and health.
Neither the UK nor India makes any direct mention of China in their official statements, a Hindustan Times report has said that the India-China border stand-off was part of the discussion on regional security. Raab apparently said the UK will help in tackling issues such as terrorism and maritime security.
Meanwhile, Chinese state-owned media has not shied away from taking a jibe at this prospering friendship. The report by the Global Times says that London and New Delhi “adjusted their diplomatic strategies in the same direction to jointly target Beijing”.
On Johnson’s invite to India on the G7 summit, the media report said China will respond calmly to the UK and India’s enhanced cooperation on security issues. It states that China will not hesitate from taking counter-measures if the interactions between New Delhi and London are “at the expense of China’s interests in security and development”.