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China Not Committed to Established Body of Rules as Australia and India Are: Aus Envoy Barry O'Farrell

Representative image.

Representative image.

Barry O'Farrell asserted that Beijing's moves to unilaterally alter the status quo in South China Sea are not in line with consensus building and dialogue.

  • PTI
  • Last Updated: June 17, 2020, 11:44 PM IST
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China is not as committed as Australia and India to the established body of rules and norms, that have underpinned the post-World War II era, which needs to be protected, the Australian envoy here Barry O'Farrell said on Wednesday.


He asserted that Beijing's moves to unilaterally alter the status quo in South China Sea are not in line with consensus building and dialogue.

In his address at the Vivekananda International Foundation, the Australian High Commissioner to India said India and Australia have similar shared worries.

"The rise of China has been, on the whole, a very good thing for humanity. China's economic rise has lifted millions from poverty and driven economic growth globally," he said.

But with power comes responsibility and the established body of rules and norms that have underpinned the post-World War II era of relative peace, stability and prosperity needs to be protected.

"We have reason, unfortunately, to worry that Beijing is not as committed to this framework as we are," O'Farrell said.

"The most persistent and concerning of these is China's nine dash line claim over the entire South China Sea and its move to unilaterally alter the status quo in that region. These moves are not consistent with consensus building and dialogue, both principles Australia and India value highly,' he said adding that this may change.

In the meantime, Australia and India have a shared interest in ensuring that no one power dominates the Indo-Pacific and that the voices of small, medium and emerging powers still can shape and influence the region, the Australian envoy said.

"This shared vision for a free, open and stable Indo-Pacific has underpinned the remarkable growth in our bilateral defence relationship," he said.

O'Farrell's remarks come amid a tense stand off between India and China in eastern Ladakh where a fierce clash between the troops of both countries claimed the lives of 20 Indian soldiers.

The casualties on the Chinese side are not yet known. However, government sources, citing an American intelligence report, claimed the total number of soldiers killed and seriously wounded could be 35.

It is worth reflecting that only twenty years ago the Australia-India bilateral defence relationship was nearly non-existent, the Australian envoy said.

"Today, it is a hive of activity and full of energy and purpose. We are among each others' top three or four most important defence partners," he said.

"And just last year we held our largest ever defence exercise (AUSINDEX), which included anti-submarine warfare serials, the kind of exercise that only the closest of partners carry out," O'Farrell said.

India and Australia are also gripped with a similar sense of shared purpose as they grapple with the implications of creeping authoritarianism and the risks it poses of democracy, transparency and openness, he said.

"We have well and truly moved past the three Cs of Cricket, Commonwealth and Curry. The future of the relationship, in my view, is better described as the four Ds -- Defence, Democracy, Diaspora and Dosti (what Australians call mateship)," he said.

His remarks come days after India and Australia elevated their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership, signed seven key agreements including a landmark pact for reciprocal access to military bases and another on rare earth minerals during an online summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.

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