On the border, China isn’t listening
On the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet at Dushanbe, India’s external affairs minister S Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi. The discussion revolved around the standoff in eastern Ladakh. Mr Jaishankar, based on the statement issued by the ministry of external affairs and his tweets, appears to have made a set of clear points.
One, the unilateral change at the border was unacceptable and till there was full restoration of peace and tranquillity at the border, other elements of the relationship could not proceed apace. This is in keeping with India’s consistent line since the Chinese intrusions last year and was reflected in both economic and geopolitical steps that New Delhi has taken since. Two, the Pangong Tso disengagement had led to expectations that China would work with India to resolve the remaining issues, but this had not happened. This indicates that Beijing, after having got India off the Kailash Range in return for stepping back in Pangong Tso, hasn’t shown any intent to step back in areas such as Depsang, Hot Springs and Gogra. Three, the Indian statement suggests that both sides agreed that military commanders meet to take forward the dialogue to “find a mutually acceptable solution”, which throws up the possibility that China hasn’t been keen on the pending dialogue.
While India’s policy position is sound, the fact is China isn’t listening. It wants to divorce the border situation from the rest of the relationship with Wang Yi suggesting that the border question be kept in its “appropriate place”. This is akin to suggesting that India should reconcile itself with an intrusion into its sovereignty while deepening ties in other spheres. If a new status quo isn’t acceptable to Delhi, as it shouldn’t be, India will have to step up its diplomacy.