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Refuting China’s claims, Maldives and Australia deny attending Indian Ocean Forum meet

New Delhi: Following the footprints of Maldives, Australia too did not participate in the “China-Indian Ocean Forum on Development Cooperation” that held on November 21. Australia`s High Commissioner to India, Barry O`Farrell took to Twitter to clarify about the same and tweeted, “Contrary to media reporting, no Australian Government official attended the Kunming China-Indian Ocean Forum on Development Cooperation.”

“Pleased @TimWattsMP attended #IORA Ministerial Council last week, the only ministerial-level forum for the Indian Ocean. Australia was delighted India`s application for Vice Chair was accepted by consensus. We share an enduring interest: a free, open, rules-based and secure Indo-Pacific,” added the Australian envoy.

Canberra was given the invitation for the meeting by Beijing. However, Australia, a member of Quad (comprising Australia, Japan, India and the US), chose not to participate in the China-led Forum meet.

Prior Australia, the Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs also clarified that it did not participate in the “China-Indian Ocean Forum on Development Cooperation.”

“The Ministry would like to clarify, that the Government of Maldives did not participate in the above-mentioned Forum, and communicated its decision not to participate to the Embassy of the People`s Republic of China to the Maldives on November 15, 2022,” said Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement.

As per the Article 115 (J) of the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives, “only the serving President may determine, conduct and oversee the foreign policy of the country, and conduct political relations with foreign nations and international organizations.”

The statement further added, “Official accreditation to meetings, forums and conferences to represent the Maldives, as per international practice, will only take place through diplomatic channels. Therefore, for this specific meeting, there was no official representation by the Government of Maldives.”

It must be noted that China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) released a joint press statement which alleged the participation of the Maldives in the “China-Indian Ocean Forum on Development Cooperation”.

It has been witnessed in the last few weeks that the major world powers are shifting their focus from other areas of conflict to the Indian and Pacific Oceans. This is because of the Chinese aggression in the South China Sea to maintain its hegemony over entire seawater.

China also defied the UN conventions and international maritime laws to fulfill its goals. Recently, the US administration declared that it will focus on “building collective capacity to deal with challenges in the region.”

These challenges include China’s intention and advancement in the US relationship with India to support its role as a net security provider in the region. The European Union (EU) too announced its strategy aiming at enhancing its engagement across a wide spectrum.

The US is proactively taking steps to deal with China and recently held Quad Summit in Tokyo where it launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) that offers the better alternatives to fulfil its developmental goals.

Notably, more than half of the world`s population with 2 billion people is living in the Indo-Pacific region. This region contributes a lot in the world`s economic output and is behind only two other region of the World.

One of the reasons why this region holds a great importance is that one-third of the foreign trade of the world takes place in this region..