Shringla urges UK to align Indo-Pacific policy with India

Shringla urges UK to align Indo-Pacific policy with India

Raises concerns about China’s Belt and Road project leading to regional debt

Warning against “colonial” connectivity projects and loans to countries that tie them to unsustainable debt, Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla called on the United Kingdom to align with its Indo-Pacific policy with India’s.

“We must not forget that many countries of the Indo-Pacific have suffered a history of colonialism [],” said Mr. Shringla, in what appeared to be a veiled reference to China’s Belt and Road Initiative projects, in a speech made in London to British think-tank Policy Exchange about “India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific”.

“We need to be mindful not to embrace constructs that themselves create dependencies and skewed arrangements. These concerns are particularly relevant as the Indo-Pacific region puts its mind to supply chains resilience and diversification in the post-coronavirus period,” he added.

Supply chains

Referring to the “Supply Chains Resilience Initiative” (SCRI) that India is working on along with Japan and Australia, Mr. Shringla also said India, along with G-20 partners is considering a proposal to waive debt repayments from smaller countries for 2020 at least. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend the G-20 summit, being hosted virtually by Saudi Arabia on November 21-22.

Mr. Shringla was in London for the final leg of his trip to France, Germany and U.K. He has discussed India’s Indo-Pacific policy at each of the stops, as well as recent progress made by the Quad countries including Australia, India, Japan and U.S. when Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar met his counterparts in Tokyo last month. He also referred to Indo-U.S. “2+2” talks in Delhi, where discussions on the Indo-Pacific policy were at the top of the agenda, and the Malabar naval exercises, that began on Tuesday, which include all Quad countries.

In particular, the Foreign Secretary said the Indo-Pacific had come into focus because of several factors, including the shift in global trade from the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific, that sees about 65% of world trade and contributes 60% of global GDP. He also said pointedly that “the rise of China” was another factor for the focus.

German backing

Mr. Shringla said Germany is the third European country, after France and the Netherlands to release a strategy for the Indo-Pacific regions that spans the oceans from the Eastern coast of the African continent to the U.S. West coast, adding that the policy shared India’s “principles” on ensuring fair competition, avoiding over-indebtedness of recipient countries and transparency and sustainability.

“The U.K., we hope and expect, will be next on the list, and too will finalise its Indo-Pacific strategy soon. Given this country’s characteristic wisdom and prodigious institutional memory, we hope too that the UK’s strategy will approximate India’s own and long-standing Indo-Pacific vision,” Mr. Shringla concluded.

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