Won’t interfere in border issue, says Australian envoy

Won’t interfere in border issue, says Australian envoy

‘It a matter for China and India to resolve it bilaterally’

Australia would not “interfere” in the ongoing situation between India and China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), said its High Commissioner to India, indicating a different line from the U.S. on the issue.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison are due to speak at a “virtual” bilateral summit on Thursday, where the two sides are expected to strengthen strategic cooperation and announce a Mutual Logistics Supply Agreement (MLSA) for the reciprocal use of each other’s bases and other military facilities.

“In relation to the border issues…that is a matter for China and India to resolve, not a matter for Australia to interfere with. What we have seen in the past week when others have sought to step in, it has been made clear that India and China will resolve it bilaterally,” said High Commissioner Barry O’Farrell, in a reference to U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate, as well as a U.S. official’s reference to the LAC situation as proof that China poses a “threat” to its neighbours.

Australia and China are currently are locked in tensions as well over a range of issues, from trade and the coronavirus pandemic to China’s moves in the South China Sea. However, the envoy made it clear that the issues would be kept separate from India’s current tensions over the Chinese army action on the LAC in Ladakh and Sikkim.

Speaking about the summit on Thursday, which has been scheduled six months after it was cancelled in January last because of forest fires in Australia and then put off due to the pandemic, Mr. O’Farrell said the relationship would reach a “historic high” after the Prime Ministers’ discussions.

“The mutual LSA makes it easier for defence forces of both countries to conduct exercises like AUSINDEX and to facilitate access to each other’s bases,” Mr. O’Farrell told journalists in Delhi. “It is the sort of a relationship we have with many of our allies,” he added.

Australia had submitted a draft of the MLSA soon after India signed a similar “foundational agreement” with the U.S. in 2016, and it has taken nearly four years to negotiate. India was likely to sign LSAs with Russia, Japan and the U.K. as well in the near future, said officials.

Amongst a number of other agreements due to be announced during Thursday’s summit are COVID19-related cooperation at regional and multilateral institutions, said the High Commissioner.

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