China on Friday indicated it was opposed to the involvement of “any third party” in Arunachal Pradesh, when asked about India and Japan on Thursday agreeing to take forward infrastructure projects in the northeast of India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday announced the setting up of an India-Japan Act East Forum, which will take forward development of India’s northeast under a larger effort to synergise India’s Act East policy and Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. Infrastructure projects in the northeastern states including road connectivity, electricity and water supply have been envisaged, said a joint statement on Thursday.
While the statement did not mention Arunachal Pradesh specifically, China, which claims close to 90,000 sq km in Arunachal and disputes the status of the state, on Friday warned against any “third party” involvement, suggesting it was opposed to any India-Japan projects in the state.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters when asked about the setting up of the Act East Forum, “You must be very clear that the boundary of the India China border area has not been totally delimited and we have disputes in the eastern section of the boundary. We are now trying to seek a solution through negotiation that is acceptable to both sides. Under such circumstances, we hope India and various parties should respect such aspects and any third party should not be involved in our efforts to solve disputes.”
“India and Japan are both important countries in Asia,” Hua added. “We hope normal development of relations can be conducive to regional stability and development and play a constructive role in this process.”
Thursday’s joint statement dropped any reference to the South China Sea dispute – which last year’s India-Japan statement had mentioned -and had no specific mention of China, but at the same time “reaffirmed the importance of freedom of navigation, overflight and unimpeded lawful commerce” in the Indo-Pacific region, which officials pointed out includes the South China Sea.
More specifically, it also called for the “peaceful resolution of disputes” in “accordance with the universally recognised principles of international law, notably the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)”. China, most notably, rejected a tribunal’s ruling in an arbitration case with the Philippines that found many of its claims violated UNCLOS.
Beijing played down the reference, saying that China also stood for the freedom of navigation and pointed out the statement didn’t refer to China.
“To be frank, we are closely following the Japanese PM’s visit to India ,” Hua said. “I read the joint statement carefully, but I haven’t found that this statement mentioned China at all. You also mentioned there may be some implicit mentioning of China. I was just wondering, does it contain any hidden agenda or is it just that journalist friends make too many guesses I can respond to you in a simple way. The statement mentioned resolving disputes through negotiation and dialogue. We know that resolving disputes by directly concerned parties to uphold freedom of navigation and overflight is China’s position.”
Hua also pointed out that China “hopes various parties can uphold the rights to freedom of navigation and overflight by countries in various waters”, though she didn’t mention where.
The joint statement also referred to what some observers saw as implicit criticism of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), underlining the importance of the “use of connectivity infrastructure in an open, transparent and non-exclusive manner based on international standards and responsible debt financing practices”. Hua downplayed this reference. “You also mentioned there may be some innuendos on the BRI. I haven’t seen that. But I should say that in terms of improvement of connectivity, we also stand for upholding principle of wider consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits to deepening infrastructure and connectivity in this region,” she said.
Source: India Today