Sat, 24 Jul 2021

New Delhi [India], June 23 (ANI): Portugal Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva has said that the European Union has certain redlines in its relationship with China and cannot be silent concerning human rights violations in Xinjiang, squeezing of democratic space in Hong Kong and cannot accept any change in the South China Sea in relation to Taiwan.

Participating in a discussion on 'The future of India-EU relations', organised by Observer Research Foundation (ORF), the minister said there is a need to pay more attention to the Indo-Pacific region and India is one of the closest partners.

"We need to pay more attention to the Indo-Pacific region in terms of security, freedom of navigation, and economic relations and for that, we have to consider India as one of our closest partners," he said.

The minister said that in terms of institutions, political fundamentals, human rights, and civil society, the EU's partner in Asia is India, not China.

"Our perspectives on political institutions is very close to the Indian one - the liberal democratic tradition. We have certain redlines with our relationship to China - we cannot be silent when there are violations of human rights, for instance in Xinjiang - we have to denounce it, we cannot accept the squeezing of democratic space in Hong Kong, and we cannot accept any change in the South China Sea with relation to Taiwan. So, we have to be very cautious," the minister said.

"We're what we call systemic rivals because the way we see institutions, political fundamentals, human rights, and civil society is very different when you speak from Brussels' point of view. That's why in this crucial area, our partner in Asia is not China, but India," he added.

The minister said that China's rise opens some opportunities but has also presented a security challenge.

"At North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Summit this month, we redefined our position towards China. We consider that China's rise opens some opportunities but put security challenge that we've to address. We don't see China as a threat," he said.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also participated in the event that was held in virtual mode.

Answering a query, he said the rise of China in the past 25 years has been one of the defining transformational trends. "It is something which everybody would take into account."Prime Minister Narendra Modi had participated in the India-EU Leaders' meeting last month.

The meeting was held in a hybrid format with the participation of leaders of all the 27 EU member states as well as the President of the European Council and the European Commission. The meeting was the initiative of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union and it was the first time that the EU hosted a meeting with India in the EU27 format.

At its summit held earlier this month, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had called out China's "assertive behaviour" and expressed concerns over Beijing's coercive policies.

The alliance of 30 European and North American countries said that China presents "systemic challenges" and has vowed to counter Beijing's rise.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at a news conference that the organisation was concerned that China was "rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal with more warheads and a large number of sophisticated, delivery systems," as well as its military cooperation with Russia and its "use of misinformation".

"NATO leaders call on China to uphold its international commitments, and to act responsibly in the international system, including in space, cyber, and maritime domains, in keeping with its role as a major power," Stoltenberg said. (ANI)

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