In a statement O’Farrell also said Australia was deeply concerned by 'actions' in the South China Sea and that it rejected China’s 'unlawful maritime claims' in the region
New Delhi: Australia on Thursday backed India on its military tensions with China saying that it was opposed to any unilateral alteration of the status quo along the India-China Line of Actual Control (LAC) border. Such an attempt would only serve to increase tension and the risks of instability, Australian High Commissioner to New Delhi Barry O’Farrell said.
In a statement O’Farrell also said Australia was deeply concerned by "actions" in the South China Sea and that it rejected China’s "unlawful maritime claims" in the region.
"As I told the External Affairs Minister of India (S Jaishankar) today (Thursday), Australia opposes any attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo, which only serve to increase tension and the risk of instability," O’Farrell said in a statement.
"It is important that the bilaterally-agreed principles and norms that have helped prevent escalation or miscalculation in the border areas over many decades continue to be observed," he added.
India and China are in the process of disengaging their troops from forward positions along the LAC after a series of diplomatic and military talks. However the process seems to have ground to a halt with both sides looking at further military talks to find a way out of the current impasse. India on Thursday called out Chinese claims that the disengagement process was complete and tensions on the border reduced. Indian foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said that disengagement was yet to be completed.
O’Farrell, in his remarks, also said that Australia remained deeply concerned by actions of China in the South China Sea that he said were "destabilising and could provoke escalation."
"On 23 July, Australia lodged a note with the UN Secretary General refuting China’s unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea," he said.
"It rejects China’s claim to historic rights and internal waters, its assertion of certain maritime zones, and its contention there is wide international recognition of its South China Sea sovereignty claims," the High Commissioner added.
In the last few weeks, China has increased its military assertiveness in the South China Sea when the entire world is battling the coronavirus pandemic.
China claims sovereignty over all of South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons. However, several countries in the region including Vietnam, Philippines and Brunei have counter claims.
Talking about the Indo-Pacific, the Australian High Commissioner said the Australian vision for the region as "an open, free, rules-based region; a region resilient to coercion and supported by inclusive global and regional institutions that promote prosperous, stable and sovereign states based on shared interest" – remained unchanged.
"Territorial disputes and competing claims should be resolved peacefully by the claimant countries, and in ways consistent with international law," he said.
"Even as we focus on the health and economic impacts of the (covid-19) pandemic, Australia remains vigilant about strategic trends inimical to our vision of the region," he said.
"Each country in the region has the agency to shape not just how our region emerges from COVID-19, but how we use this test to reinforce a regional order guided by agreed rules and international law," he said.
The Australian High Commissioner also referred to challenges in cyberspace where in recent months “malicious cyber actors have sought to take advantage of the pandemic across the Indo-Pacific region."
"We will work through multilateral and regional institutions to strengthen a rules-based cyberspace, “ he said adding that Australia had announced a record boost to cyber security spending – more than (Australian) $ 1.35 billion.
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