China faces ‘real danger’ of losing goodwill created by decades of good ties: Jaishankar
External affairs minister S Jaishankar on Saturday refused to set a timeframe for resolving the border standoff in the Ladakh sector but said China faces the “real danger” of losing the goodwill created by positive relations with India in recent decades.
Jaishankar’s remarks, made during an online interaction organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), came a day after the external affairs ministry blamed China for tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and called on the Chinese side to deliver on promises about abiding by border agreements and settling the boundary issue through talks.
“I wouldn’t get into the prediction zone at all, whether it is going to be easy or not, and what will be the timelines and so on,” he said in response to a question on whether India is in for the long haul in the border standoff or a breakthrough is expected.
Jaishankar described this year’s events along the LAC as “very disturbing”, and said they had raised “very basic concerns”. These events occurred because China “has not abided by agreements that we have had with them about respecting and observing the LAC and not bringing forces to the LAC”, he said.
He added, “I think a lot of work had gone into the relationship on both sides. And I don’t believe the events of this year have helped at all. In fact, I think the real danger is that the goodwill, which was so carefully developed, will dissipate.”
Jaishankar likened China’s actions to a “very substantial” violation of the terms of a contract, and said such moves were not “in the interests of China, because what it has done...has significantly impacted public sentiment”.
Acknowledging that India is being “tested” by events along the LAC, he said: “I have every confidence that we will rise to the occasion, we will meet that national security challenge. But beyond that at this time, I would really keep my own counsel.”
On Wednesday, Jaishankar had said that China has offered “five differing explanations” for deploying thousands of soldiers on the LAC and pushing bilateral ties into their most difficult phase ever. A day later, China’s foreign ministry said responsibility for the situation “totally lies with the Indian side” but this was rejected by the external affairs ministry.
The two countries haven’t been able to push ahead with disengagement at friction points on the LAC despite several rounds of diplomatic and military talks, and tens of thousands of Indian and Chinese troops have dug in for the winter in Ladakh sector.
Asked whether India’s relations with the US would change under the Joe Biden administration, Jaishankar said: “Today the relationship is at such a different level, that the only place for it to go is up.”
Much will depend on where India stands in the US’s priorities such as security and trade, but New Delhi is now doing more on global issues and challenges such as climate change, he said.
Talking about India’s efforts to reach a trade deal with the Donald Trump administration, Jaishankar said there were “fairly serious negotiations” between the two sides on resolving outstanding trade issues and differences.
“For a variety of reasons, [the US] didn’t close it out. I can tell you on our side, we were dead serious. We wanted to deal with those issues because we thought there was something much bigger that was in store for the relationship,” he added.
Former ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, distinguished fellow for foreign policy studies at Gateway House, said Jaishankar’s remarks about not predicting the resolution of the standoff mirrored recent comments by defence minister Rajnath Singh.
“The big question for Indian diplomacy in 2021 is what path the relationship with China will take. Over the next six months, will it be status quo on the LAC or will there be a functional resolution? Clearly, no one is betting on things going back to where they were in April 2020,” he said.
“In Delhi’s view, it will all depend on how Beijing takes things forward,” Bhatia said.