‘Stressful relations’: Jaishankar analyses China ties, then some advice
India-China relations have been disturbed by the unexplained violation of agreements on border management and troop deployments and Beijing needs to reflect on the world’s reaction to its actions, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Tuesday.
The current status of bilateral ties is a “cause for concern” because 45 years of peace and tranquillity on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) have been eroded by the developments of this year, including the Galwan Valley clash of June, Jaishankar said while participating in a virtual discussion with his Canadian counterpart François-Philippe Champagne.
Champagne described Canada’s relations with China as “multi-dimensional and complex”, and said one of the biggest issues for Ottawa was the arbitrary detention by Beijing of two Canadian citizens for close to 700 days. “Coercive diplomacy” has no place in today’s world, and Canada will challenge China on issues such as human rights and the situations in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, while co-existing and cooperating in areas such as the Indo-Pacific, trade and climate change, Champagne said.
Jaishankar said 45 years of peace on the LAC had made China one of India’s top trade partners and triggered growth in investments, tech tie-ups and tourism. “The last time somebody was killed [by violence] on that border was 1975, and in June 2020, it changed,” he said.
“I think we are going through a period of stressful relations with China. My hope is that people at that end of the relationship understand the seriousness of what has happened,” he added.
He suggested China needs to reflect on the world’s reaction to its actions. Though the rise of China is part of a global rebalancing, “it is the responsibility of the rising power to also consider how does the world react...It is not just enough to rise, I think it is enough to rise with a certain degree of care and consideration for the larger international system”, he said.
Jaishankar said the two sides had agreements not to bring large number of forces to the border that were observed for 30 years. “If today, that is violated without explanation, with no justification offered to us, we have to ask ourselves, where is this going?” he asked.
“There is cause for concern but it is in the nature of our job to try and work out solutions,” he said, against the backdrop of India and China failing to make headway in disengagement after several rounds of talks.
The two ministers were participating in a discussion on the theme “Canada and India’s role in a post-Covid-19 world” organised by the think tanks Centre for International Governance Innovation and Gateway House.
Jaishankar and Champagne spoke of the potential for India and Canada to cooperate for post-Covid-19 economic recovery, creating stable supply chains, and vaccine development and access. Champagne said India has a critical role in the manufacturing and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and the two countries can do more together in the Indo-Pacific region and for upholding a rules-based international order.
Jaishankar noted Covid-19 has shaken up the world and India and Canada should focus on how they can shape the emerging order. India’s Atmanirbhar Bharat presents new opportunities for Canadian businesses and new areas for cooperation include digital technologies, space and clean energy, he said.
Without naming the Khalistan movement, which was a major irritant in India-Canada ties during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first term, Jaishankar said: “Both nations have benefited from the talent and creativity of the human bridge. However, we have also seen the misuse of democratic freedoms by a small minority with medieval beliefs and a propensity to violence.”
India-Canada trade is currently worth about $10 billion a year and Canadian investments in India total more than $60 billion. Among the major investors are Canadian pension funds, and 500 Canadian companies have investments in India.
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