‘Normalcy can be restored only if bilateral agreements are respected’

New Delhi: With the border standoff between India and China at Line of Actual Control in Ladakh set to enter its seventh month, India’s Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said that ties between the two countries are under “severe stress” and normalcy can be restored only if bilateral agreements on border management are respected in their entirety.

According to a report by Hindustan Times, Jaishankar on the sidelines of an event gave an overview of India’s relations with major powers such as the US, Russia and China, and outlined the government’s vision to enhance the country’s standing in the world order emerging from the COVID crisis.

Jaishankar said that peace and tranquillity on the border had allowed the two sides to expand cooperation in other domains.

“But as the pandemic unfolded, the relationship has come under severe stress,” the report quoted MEA minister as having said.

“To restore normalcy, agreements between the two countries must be respected scrupulously in their entirety. Where the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is concerned, any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo is unacceptable,” Jaishankar said.

“The relationship cannot be immune to changes in the assumptions that underpinned it. Large civilisational states re-emerging in close proximity will not have naturally easy ties. Their interests are best served by a sustained engagement based on mutual respect and mutual sensitivity,” the report quoted him further saying.

Earlier, India claimed that Chinese troops had hampered patrolling by its forces along the LAC since April this year and “violated” border agreements and protocols. In June his year, 20 armed forces personnel of India were killed in a violent clash with the Chinese army.

As winter is approaching, tens of thousands of troops mobilised on both sides are set to remain deployed in Ladakh region as several rounds of military and diplomatic talks have been unable to take forward the disengagement process.

Jaishankar, according to the report, also highlighted the importance of border infrastructure in ‘national security’, saying the periphery will reflect the capabilities of the heartland. Leaving parts of the border underdeveloped has its risks and “safeguarding borders is a 24×7 exercise [and] not only an appropriate response to an emerging situation”, he said.

“India’s experience in the past few years in expediting the creation of border infrastructure in the north shows how much difference sharper focus and better implementation can make, and the shift from declarations to delivery is in keeping with the outlook of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel,” he said according to the report.

“Underlying it is, of course, a basic willingness to fully recognise the challenges that the nation faces. By playing down issues like cross-border terrorism or competitive geopolitics, there has been a tendency to look away from the hard choices. In a more difficult world, that is going to be less possible,” the report quoted Jaishankar as having said.

He added that with the US, successive governments on both sides have pursued a “non-partisan endeavour”, and strong economic and technological complementarities have laid a strong foundation for the relationship.

“But it is in the face of emerging multi-polarity that both nations have developed a serious interest in more intensive engagement,” he added.

The MEA minister added that India’s relations with Russia have held remarkably steady and the “strategic logic that has sustained this relationship since its early days still remains largely relevant”.

“India has also ramped up its engagement with European states, which are taking a greater interest in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

There is also a strong case for accelerating the partnership with Japan, which has been responsible for catalysing many aspects of India’s modernization, he said.

Looking at the world order emerging out of the COVID crisis, Jaishankar said it was apparent even before the pandemic that the existing international system was under great stress due to multiple and complex reasons, including the disenchantment with a globalised economic system that created unequal gains, HT reported.

“The COVID pandemic could well be the last straw on the back of a fraying global consensus,” he said.

“India will approach the world in a more proactive way in the aftermath of the pandemic…The pressures of the pandemic will naturally impart a different urgency to such engagements…Indian diplomacy will be more integrated with our defence and security needs, more supportive of our economic and commercial interests, more aware of our technology capabilities and offerings, and more sensitive to the diaspora,” HT quoted Jaishankar as saying.


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