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'Russia can make its full contribution in strategically important Indo-Pacific'

MOSCOW (PTI): India on Thursday described the Indo-Pacific strategy as a further advancement of its Act East Policy and said Russia can make its full contribution in the strategically important region.

"In many ways Russia is there. If Russia acts like Russia, it will make its full contribution," External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said while answering a question at the Primakov Institute of World Economy & International Relations in Moscow.

Jaishankar, who described Russia as a Euro-Pacific power, was asked which role Russia could play in the Indo-Pacific – a region which has seen aggressive moves by the Chinese military.

Indo-Pacific means that it is no longer practical to draw some line somewhere and say this side of the line is different and that side of the line is different, Jaishankar said, adding that in one way it's something new, in one way it's something old.

"When I look at India 25 years earlier, we started Look East, it matured into Act East. Today Indo-Pacific is further advancement of it. What has changed in this period? Today our top trading partners include China, Japan, Korea, Russia of course, Australia, ASEAN," he said.

"Both our interests and our reach today extend well into the Pacific. Our major partners are located there, and indeed, cooperation with the Russian Far East is one notable example. The reality is that there is a vast global commons whose safety, security, ecology, environment and activities are increasingly a shared responsibility, he said.

"I think beyond a point we should not get caught up in these very semantic debates, terminological debates," the minister added.

"We need to move with the times of the day. This is a globalised world. We cannot divide the world into little bits and pieces and say some country will do something and other countries will not do other things. That's not the way the world works any more," he added.

India advocates a rules-based Indo-Pacific with freedom of navigation, open connectivity, and respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who has been openly critical of the Indo-Pacific concept, in December accused the US-led West of attempting to "undermine" Moscow's close partnership and privileged relations with India.

Lavrov said the West is seeking to reinstate the unipolar world order that would include all states but for Russia and China with which it would deal later.

The US, Japan, India and Australia had in 2017 given shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the "Quad" or the Quadrilateral coalition to counter China's aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region.

The US says Quad is not an alliance but a grouping of countries driven by shared interests and values and interested in strengthening a rules-based order in the strategically-important Indo-Pacific region.

China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims.

Beijing has also built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region. Both areas are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources and are also vital to global trade.

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