India’s relations with China are at a crossroads, Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar said on Thursday, adding that the future trajectory of ties will depend on whether Beijing will adhere to pacts aimed at ensuring peace on the border.
The minister’s comments come against the backdrop of yearlong tensions along the common border in Ladakh. While disengagement of troops have taken place from one friction point, soldiers of the two countries remain engaged in eye ball to eye ball confrontation in several other points along the border in Ladakh.
On China aggressively increasing its footprint all along India’s periphery and in the Indian Ocean, Jaishankar in comments at an event hosted by the Financial Times and the Indian Express newspapers said India was ready to compete.
“Its one thing to compete but its another thing to have violence on the border. So I would make a differentiation here,” the minister said. “The issue of me is how do I manage the relationship if the basis of the relationship has been violated” by China, Jaishankar said.
On the Quad – ie cooperation among India, US, Japan and Australia – Jaishankar said “arguments of the Cold War cannot be used to deny countries their right to maximize their options” – comments seen as a response to China’s criticism that the Quad was an Asian NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) harking back to the Cold War era.
“The Quad is a sense fills a gap which cannot be addressed simply by four bilateral relationships aggregated and a multilateral and regional structure which is not there,” Jaishankar said. “So something has to fill that space. But there is global good there. There are global commons which needs looking after. And I think the Quad helps to fill that gap,” he said.
On the ongoing tensions with China, the minister pointed out that the two countries had in the 1980s and 1990s focused on stablising the border with a series of pacts. Once the border was settled, other components of the relationship fell into place.
“If there is continuing tension, then obviously, its going to tell on the relationship,” he said. “What is clear in the last year is that border tensions cannot continue with cooperation in other areas,” the minister said. China on its part has been calling for a normalization of ties especially in the economic sphere where India has taken steps to keep out Chinese businesses from the Indian economy. One of the most recent steps that to exclude Chinese telecom companies from 5G trials in India.
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