New Delhi [India], April 28 (ANI): Amid the security concerns raised by the United States, Japan and Australia over the recent security cooperation pact between China and the Solomon Islands, India on Thursday said that it has made its position clear on the need for a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Addressing a media briefing, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi made the statement in response to a question on whether India aligns itself with the security concerns raised by other QUAD member countries on the military pact between China and Solomon Islands potentially leading to Chinese military presence in the islands.
“I don’t know if the QUAD made any statement, you meant that these three countries (the US, Japan, and Australia) made it and you are reading it as a QUAD (statement), I am not,” Bagchi said.
“We have made our position clear on a free and open Indo-Pacific and the issue of how we see (the) behaviour of States and what are their concerns, I think we have explained it a lot, I think I would like to just reiterate that without going into the specific thing of this development,” the MEA spokesperson further said.
Earlier this month, China and Solomon Islands signed a framework agreement on security cooperation that neighbours of the South Pacific archipelago fear could open the door to a Chinese naval base in the country.
Pacific countries including Australia, New Zealand and the US have raised concerns about the controversial agreement.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin announced the agreement in Beijing, saying it would involve China cooperating with Honiara on maintaining social order, protecting people’s safety, aid, combating natural disasters, and helping safeguard national security, media reports said.
Australia said that China has intentions to build a naval base in the Solomon Islands to intimidate the continent.
The United States expressed concern over the security pact between China and the Solomon Islands, saying this agreement will open the door for the deployment of Chinese military forces in the Pacific nation.
“We are closely following what China does in the Pacific Island region with interest,” Japanese PM Fumio Kishida was quoted as saying on the development.
On April 22, a high-level US delegation visited Honiara, Solomon Islands, and met for 90 minutes with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, along with two dozen members of his cabinet and senior staff.
Addressing a separate question on India issuing tourist visas to China, the MEA spokesperson said that it is not the opportune moment to talk about tourist visas given the ongoing COVID-19 situation in China.
“I think you all are aware of the COVID situation in Chinese cities like Shanghai and elsewhere, I don’t think it’s an opportune moment really to discuss… resumption of tourism or issuance of tourist visas from China,” Bagchi said
“You are also aware that China has itself suspended the issue of most types of visas to India since November 2020, so I leave it that,” he added. (ANI)