International pressure continues to build on China over issues from Hong Kong, Xinjiang, South China Sea to clean technology. The Australian High Commissioner to India, Barry O’Farrell, met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday and issued a statement saying that Australia remains deeply concerned about actions in South China Sea that “are destabilising and could provoke escalation”. He also added that Australia had lodged a note with the UN Secretary General “refuting China’s unlawful maritime claims in South China Sea”.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also confirmed the same, saying, “In the Indo-Pacific, Australia declared China’s South China Sea claims unlawful and illegitimate, as we have.” He also added that US had stepped up “maritime manoeuvres in the body of water alongside our friends from Australia and Japan and United Kingdom”.
Pompeo was speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee where he added that India had banned “106 Chinese applications that threatened its citizens’ privacy and security”. He said, “Our diplomatic efforts are working and momentum is building to mitigate the threats that the Chinese Communist party presents.”
Back in Delhi, O’Farrel also told Jaishankar that “Australia opposes any attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo,” while speaking about the tension along the Line of Actual Control. These developments took place even as the Chinese Ambassador to India issued a veiled warning that China will not allow interference in its “internal affairs”, while speaking at a lecture at the Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi.
Ambassador Sun Weidong said it worries him that there is a suggestion being made in India to “adjust its policy towards China, and change its stance on issues related to Taiwan, Xizang, Hong Kong and the South China Sea to put pressure on China”. He was speaking in the context of the tension on the Line of Actual Control and the public discourse to counter it by various means.
Meanwhile, India on record refuted China’s claim that disengagement had happened on most locations on the LAC. Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs said, “There has been some progress made towards this objective but the disengagement process has yet not been completed. The senior commanders of the two sides will be meeting in the near future to work out steps in this regard.”
However, while speaking at ICS, the Chinese Ambassador not just continued to push Beijing’s narrative of what led to the violent Galwan Valley face-off but once again seemed to be making a claim over the India territory of Galwan Valley by saying that, “China has never claimed any land outside its own territory”. In fact, on the issue of Pangong Lake where the disengagement process has turned out to be tricky, he went a step further, saying China’s traditional customary boundary line is in accordance with the LAC on the northern side of the lake. He said there is no such case as China having expanded its claim.