External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has categorically maintained that peace & tranquility in the border areas should be the basis of India-China relations

Is the situation in eastern Ladakh most serious since the 1962 War? This is what External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in an interview with a news website before the formal launch of his book, ‘The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World.’

“This is surely the most serious situation after 1962. In fact, after 45 years, we have had military casualties on this border. The quantum of forces currently deployed by both sides at the LAC is also unprecedented,” S Jaishankar said.

He forthrightly said honouring all agreements and understanding without attempting to alter the status quo unilaterally must be the basis of any solution to the border row with China.

I am not minimizing either the seriousness or the complex nature of the current situation. Naturally, we have to do what it takes to secure our borders…But when it comes to finding a solution, this must be predicted on honouring all agreements and understandings. And not attempting to alter the status quo unilaterally…That is why we tell the Chinese side clearly that peace and tranquility in the border areas are the basis for the relationship,” the External Affairs Minister said. It may be recalled that both India and China have held several rounds of military and diplomatic level talks.

Despite agreeing to disengage immediately from some of the friction points, Chinese soldiers stayed put in Depsang, Gogra and Pangong Lake Tso areas. Rather China has mobilized a significant number of troops with heavy weaponry near the Line of Actual Control. In response to it, India has also mobilized massive troops with cutting edge defence weapons along the border. Both sides are prepared for a long haul along the rugged terrains of Ladakh as India is not ready to lower its guard.

“What I have said is that the ability of India and China to work together could determine the Asian Century. But their difficulties in doing so may well undermine it,” EAM Jaishankar said, adding previous military stand-offs between the two sides in the past decade “were resolved through diplomacy”.

Talking about the impact of the border tension on the rest of the relationship, EAM Jaishankar said India has conveyed to the Chinese side clearly that peace and tranquility in the border areas are the basis for the relationship.

“If we look back at the last three decades, this is quite self-evident. Indian and Chinese armies are locked in a tense standoff in eastern Ladakh for over three-and-half-month despite multiple rounds of diplomatic and military talks. The tension escalated after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the Galwan Valley clash in which Chinese military also suffered casualties.

Referring to previous episodes of border rows with China, he said, “If you look back over the last decade, there have been a number of border situations, Depsang, Chumar and Doklam. In a sense, each one was different. This one surely is. But what is also common is that all border situations were resolved through diplomacy.”

During the interview, EAM Jaishankar dwelled on a wide range of issues, including India’s ties with the US and Russia, relevance of non-alignment, international events that shaped India’s diplomacy since 1977 when he joined the Indian Foreign Service.