New Delhi: China’s ambassador to India has called for more cooperation among countries of the “Indo-Pacific" in an era of globalization and shedding what he termed a “Cold War mentality" that was seeking to contain his country.
“China cannot be contained," Luo Zhaohui said in remarks that followed a meeting of Indian, Japanese, Australian and US officials earlier this week.
Writing in Thursday’s edition of the Tribune newspaper, Luo called for enhancing “mutual trust and focus on cooperation, while properly managing differences, in a bid to promote China-India relations to a new level."
Referring to the meeting of officials from the four countries in Manila on Sunday that called for a “free and open Indo-Pacific" and a rules-based order, Luo pointed to media reports on the “Indo-Pacific Strategy" which said that the emerging multilateral cooperation was aimed at China.
“I have a different opinion. As a saying goes, if you want to create an opponent, you will have an opponent. We should get rid of the Cold War mentality. In fact, it is in the interests of all parties and in the trend of globalization to enhance closer Indo-Pacific ties from a geographical and economic perspective. Above all, China cannot be contained. We are fully confident about it," Luo said in his opinion piece.
India did not immediately comment on Luo’s remarks. But analysts like C.U. Bhaskar, director of the New Delhi-based Society for Policy Studies think tank, said Luo articulating his country’s views was welcome. “As far as the question of the maritime domain goes, no one wants to contain China, which is anyway not a valid proposition. All these countries are aiming for is to get China to comply with the existing status quo," Bhaskar said.
The ambassador’s comments come as the geostrategic term “Indo-Pacific" as opposed to “Asia-Pacific" has been gaining currency, thanks to increased use by US administration officials to refer to a large swathe of sea and land stretching from the US Pacific coast to Australia and beyond to India and Africa. US secretary of state Rex Tillerson made several references to the “Indo-Pacific region" in a speech at a think tank in Washington last month. Days later, Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono said that Tokyo favoured a dialogue between Japan, the US, India and Australia to boost strategic partnership among these countries.
On its part, China has been wary of the so-called quadrilateral grouping that is seen as a potential balancing act against Beijing, given the latter’s aggressive rise in the past few years with increasing territorial disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea. India and China in August ended a 73-day-long military stand-off—their worst in two decades —on the Doklam plateau in Bhutan. The two countries have been in countless rounds of talks to resolve their boundary dispute—a legacy of their 1962 war.
In his comments, Luo said China attached “great importance" to ties with India.
“There will be a series of institutional dialogues between the two countries," he said referring to a possible meeting in the coming months between special representatives on border talks. “We need to set long-term goals for our relations such as Free Trade Agreement, the Treaty of Good Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation between China and India, “early harvest" on the boundary issue and alignment of the Belt and Road initiative with India’s development strategies," he said.
“I firmly believe that China and India can move at the same pace towards the same direction. We need to enhance mutual trust and focus on cooperation, while properly managing differences, in a bid to promote China-India relations to a new level," Luo added.