Minister asked in Parliament if ties with neighbours have slumped. He replies
“No,” was minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan’s written reply to a question in Lok Sabha on whether bilateral ties with neighbours such as Nepal, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Myanmar had deteriorated recently.Updated: Sep 16, 2020 20:11 IST
Amid the dragging border standoff in Ladakh sector and the first use of guns along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) since 1975, the minister of state for external affairs wrote in response to a question to Parliament that India’s relations with its neighbours, including China, has not deteriorated recently.
“No,” was minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan’s written reply to a question from Trinamool Congress MP Sougata Roy in Lok Sabha on whether bilateral ties with neighbours such as Nepal, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Myanmar had deteriorated recently.
The government accords highest priority to relations with neighbours and India is an “active political and economic partner of its neighbours and is involved in various projects, including development projects, with these countries”, he said.
Responding to another question, also from Trinamool Congress MP Sougata Roy, on whether China has good relations with any of India’s other neighbours, Muraleedharan said the country’s relations with other countries “stand on their own footing and are independent of the relations of those countries with third countries”.
People familiar with the matter said the minister of state’s answer was in response to a question about an overall assessment of India’s relations with all its neighbours collectively and not on a particular bilateral relationship.
On the specific issue of India-China relations, defence minister Rajnath Singh had outlined New Delhi’s position in his detailed statement in Parliament on Tuesday, the people said on condition of anonymity.
Singh had said in his statement that the current situation in the border areas with China was very different from past standoffs “in terms of the scale of troops involved and the number of friction points”. He also said the Chinese side had engaged in provocative military manoeuvres and violated agreements by amassing troops.
The stand taken by the government in Parliament comes days after the external affairs ministry statement on September 11 following external affairs minister S Jaishankar’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting.
According to the statement, the Indian side had made it clear to the Chinese that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas is “essential to the forward development of ties”, and that recent incidents in eastern Ladakh had “inevitably impacted the development of the bilateral relationship”.
In a written reply to another question in the Lok Sabha on whether India has started discussions with China regarding the recent tensions on the border, Muraleedharan noted the contacts between the foreign and defence ministers, military commanders and Special Representatives of the two sides and meetings of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border issues since June.
He noted that Jaishankar and Wang agreed on a five-point roadmap during their meeting in Moscow on September 10, whereby both sides will take guidance from the consensus reached by the top leadership, work to quickly disengage troops, abide by all agreements and protocols boundary affairs, continue dialogue through various mechanisms, and expedite work on new confidence-building measures for the border areas.
“Accordingly, it is expected that the two sides will continue to have meetings of military and diplomatic officials to implement the agreements reached between the two foreign ministers and ensure full restoration of peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” Muraleedharan said.
Muraleedharan reiterated India’s position that there had been enhanced deployment of troops and armaments by China in border areas and along the LAC since April-May, and that the Chinese side “attempted to transgress the LAC in several areas of the western sector” since mid-May.
These attempts received an “appropriate response” from India, and China departed from the consensus for disengagement reached at a meeting of corps commanders on June 6 and “tried to unilaterally change the status quo”, he said.
This resulted in a “violent face-off” in Galwan Valley on June 15, in which both sides “suffered casualties that could have been avoided had the agreement at the senior commanders level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side”, Muraleedharan said.