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The Future of Asia 2022

India foreign minister says groups like Quad are key

Jaishankar says nation's ties with China have deteriorated in last couple of years

India's External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar touts the merits of the Quad at Nikkei's Future of Asia conference. (Photo by Tomoki Mera) 

TOKYO -- Groups such as the Quad partnership between Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. are increasingly important in tackling global issues ranging from maritime security to health, India's foreign minister said on Friday.

In a video address to the Nikkei's Future of Asia conference, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said a Quad summit in Tokyo earlier this week had underscored "how effective" such organizations can be in the face of growing global challenges.

The leaders of the Quad nations issued a joint statement after their gathering on Tuesday opposing "coercive, provocative or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo and increase tensions" in the Indo-Pacific, indirectly slamming China's actions in the East and South China seas.

"While the stability, prosperity and security of the Indo-Pacific is our shared objective, it is also necessary that we all appreciate what is happening in our distinctive regions," Jaishankar said in his address, noting that countries such as India and its neighbors were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and are now grappling with rising energy and food prices in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine.

India's economic strength continues "to provide the ballast that keeps the larger regional ship steady in the midst of these storms," he said, adding that the country has been taking the lead in addressing crisis situations in its neighborhood, including the recent economic turmoil in Sri Lanka.

New Delhi has provided Colombo with around $3.5 billion in credit over the past few months to help boost the availability of fuel, food, medicine and other essentials in Sri Lanka. "With other neighbors, we have been supportive of specific requirements that are aimed at resolving economic and health challenges," Jaishankar said.

Under its vaccine friendship initiative, New Delhi has provided India-made COVID jabs to neighboring countries such as Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

On India's relations with its largest neighbor, China, Jaishankar said ties have deteriorated following Beijing's "attempts to change the status quo" along the Line of Actual Control -- the de facto border between the two countries -- since 2020.

India and China have been embroiled in a bitter border standoff in the Himalayan region of Ladakh for two years. Twenty Indian soldiers and four Chinese troops were killed in a clash in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh in June 2020, the first deadly battle between the nuclear-armed Asian giants in 45 years.

"Relations between India and China are obviously consequential not just to the two concerned countries but also the rest of Asia," Jaishankar said. "We have made clear that the state of our relations cannot be divorced from the state of the border," he continued, adding the long-term development of ties requires "mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interest."

Turning to Japan, the minister said the political understanding between New Delhi and Tokyo has opened up "new vistas" in areas such as defense and security.

He called on Japanese companies to ramp up business in his nation. "Japan should recognize that a larger and more capable Indian economy is also in its strategic interest."

In his wide-ranging address, the Indian minister also touched on climate change, supply chain resilience and the fusion of data and technology.

"The era of 'just in time' globalization is over. We must also factor in the 'just in case' contingencies," Jaishankar said, pointing out how the flow of resources and essential goods has been affected following the pandemic and the fighting in Ukraine. He said there is a "powerful case" for economic decentralization.

New Delhi has not directly condemned Moscow, its longtime defense and strategic partner, over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and has abstained from key United Nations votes on the war. It has, however, repeatedly called for a cease-fire and dialogue to resolve the crisis.

The Future of Asia is Nikkei's flagship annual conference. This year's theme is "redefining Asia's role in a divided world." The annual event opened on Thursday with addresses from Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and others. Read our full rundowns of Day 1 and Day 2.

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