Jaishankar calls out China, cites its 5 differing explanations for Ladakh violations
China has offered “five differing explanations” for its deployment of thousands of soldiers on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that pushed bilateral ties into their most difficult phase ever, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday.
India-China ties have been “very significantly damaged” by Beijing’s violation of agreements on maintaining peace and tranquillity on the LAC, and extensive contacts at different levels between the two sides have so far failed to address the basic issue that “agreements are not being observed”, he said in an online conversation with the Australian think tank Lowy Institute.
With the India-China border standoff in its eighth month, Jaishankar said, “We are today probably at the most difficult phase of our relationship with China, certainly in the last 30 to 40 years...or even more.”
Noting that the 20 Indian soldiers killed in the clash at Galwan Valley on June 15 were the first military casualties on the LAC since 1975, Jaishankar said the relationship has been “very significantly damaged” because all positive developments in the past 30 years – including China becoming India’s second largest trade partner and engagements in tourism and travel – were based on the fact that the two sides had agreed to maintain peace and tranquillity in border areas while trying to solve the boundary question.
Pointing to multiple agreements signed since 1993 that committed both parties not to bring large forces to the LAC, he said, “Now for some reason, for which the Chinese have to date given us five differing explanations, the Chinese have violated it.
“The Chinese have literally brought tens of thousands of soldiers in full military preparation mode right to the LAC in Ladakh. Naturally the relationship would be profoundly disturbed by this.”
Jaishankar didn’t go into the details of the five explanations offered by the Chinese side. While there were arguments and face-offs between troops in the past, there had never been a major breach of understanding, he said. With soldiers of the two sides very close to each other this year, it was “not entirely surprising that something went horribly wrong”, he said in a reference to the Galwan Valley clash that resulted in 20 Indian casualties and “completely changed national sentiment”.
Getting the relationship back on track is now a “very big issue”, though communications between the two sides aren’t an issue, Jaishankar said. He had personally spoken on phone with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and met him on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in Moscow, while there were also meetings and contacts between the defence ministers, military commanders and diplomats.
“Communication is not the issue, the issue is the fact that we have agreements and those agreements are not being observed,” he added.
Jaishankar said China had, since 2008-09, evolved into a “very much more nationalistic” country, and this was being expressed “down the line in a variety of ways and in policies”. All of this was happening at a time when the global order is witnessed the creation of a new architecture and new norms and regimes because of rebalancing and multi-polarity, he added.
Responding to a question on India’s relations with the US under president-elect Joe Biden, Jaishankar said the former vice president had made a “big contribution” to bilateral ties while in the Senate foreign relations committee and his “goodwill for India is very manifest”.
Deep convergences in many areas have brought India and the US closer since the time of former president Bill Clinton’s administration, and Washington now realises New Delhi’s more prominent role in a multi-polar world as it needs more partners while going beyond the traditional system of alliances, he said.
Jaishankar expressed satisfaction at the rapid expansion of ties between India and Australia in the past 18 months, saying the two “cricket-playing Commonwealth democracies” can contribute to shaping the emerging global order. The two countries are expanding an existing trilateral with Japan and looking at shaping new ones with Indonesia and France, he said.