S. Jaishankar outlines eight propositions for India’s ties with China
New Delhi, Jan. 28 (UNI) Amidst continuing border tension in Eastern Ladakh with China, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar on Thursday said that India-China relationship is today truly at a crossroads and choices made will have profound repercussions not just for the two nations but the entire world.
He outlined eight broad propositions for stabilizing the relationship even while adjusting to changes. First and foremost, agreements already reached must be adhered to in their entirety, both in letter and spirit. Second, where the handling of the border areas are concerned, the LAC must be strictly observed and respected; any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo is completely unacceptable. Third, peace and tranquillity in the border areas is the basis for development of relations in other domains. If they are disturbed, so inevitably will the rest of the relationship. This is quite apart from the issue of progress in the boundary negotiations.
Fourth, while both nations are committed to a multi-polar world, there should be a recognition that a multi-polar Asia is one of its essential constituents. Fifth, obviously each state will have its own interests, concerns and priorities; but sensitivity to them cannot be one-sided. At the end of the day, relationships between major states are reciprocal in nature. Sixth, as rising powers, each will have their own set of aspirations and their pursuit too cannot be ignored. Seventh, there will always be divergences and differences but their management is essential to our ties. And eighth, civilizational states like India and China must always take the long view.
“It has often been said that the ability of India and China to work together will determine the Asian century. At this time, it is equally important to recognize that their difficulties in doing so may well undermine it,’ he said.
Addressing the 13th All India Conference of China Studies, Dr Jaishankar said the two nations of course have some similarities, especially of size and of history. “But they are also a very interesting contrast in many ways, whether you think of it culturally, politically or economically. Both are in the process of building a modern nation state from a civilizational society and their parallel rise in the contemporary era, albeit at a differential pace and intensity, that is a relatively unique happening in human history,’ he said.
Dwelling on the modern history of India’s ties with China, he said that people have a sense of the difficulties as well as the development of this relationship. “After the 1962 conflict, we exchanged Ambassadors only in 1976. The first Prime Ministerial visit to China after 1954 actually happened only in 1988. And indeed, the re-building of our ties was actually a very painstaking and arduous endeavour. This, if you think about it, is something of a paradox, because, do remember, that India was among the early nations to actually recognize the People’s Republic of China. But, you can see is that the quality of our ties in many ways was impacted, both by the border conflict and the lost decades thereafter,’ he told the conference.
As for the border areas, a complex but practical set of understandings and agreements focused on their management even as negotiations were conducted on the boundary dispute, he said pointing out that the advancement of ties in this period was clearly predicated on ensuring that peace and tranquillity was not disturbed and that the Line of Actual Control was both observed and respected by both sides.
“For this reason, it was explicitly agreed that the two countries would refrain from massing troops on their common border. Not just that, there were subsequently detailed understandings on handling situations of friction, if they were to arise,’ the Minister said.
“In the years that passed, we obviously did not see significant progress on arriving at a common understanding of the alignment of the LAC in the India-China border areas. But, at the same time, there was also increasing construction of border infrastructure, especially on the Chinese side. Since 2014, there may have been more efforts by India to reduce this very considerable gap, including greater budget commitments and a better road building record. Nevertheless, the infrastructure differential remains significant and, as we saw last year, consequential,’ Dr Jaishankar said.
For all the differences and disagreements that we may have had on the boundary, the central fact was that border areas still remained fundamentally peaceful. The last loss of life before 2020 was, in fact, as far back as 1975. “That is why the events in Eastern Ladakh last year have so profoundly disturbed the relationship. Because they not only signalled a disregard for commitments about minimizing troop levels, but also showed a willingness to breach peace and tranquillity. Significantly, to date, we have yet to receive a credible explanation for the change in China’s stance or reasons for massing of troops in the border areas. It is a different matter that our own forces have responded appropriately and held their own in very challenging circumstances. The issue before us is what the Chinese posture signals, how it evolves, and what implications it may have for the future of our ties,’ he told the conference.
Dr Jaishankar said the three mutuals – mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests – are determining factors of India’s relations with China. ‘Any expectation that they can be brushed aside, and that life can carry on undisturbed despite the situation at the border, that is simply not realistic. There are discussions underway through various mechanisms on disengagement at the border areas. But if ties are to steady and progress, policies must take into account the learnings of the last three decades,’ he pointed out.