India has yet to receive a credible explanation for the change in China’s stance or reasons for massing of troops

Referring to last year’s June 15 incident in the Galwan Valley in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed during a scuffle with PLA troops, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said this incident has put India’s ties with China under exceptional stress.

“The last loss of life before 2020 was, in fact, as far back as 1975. That is why the events in Eastern Ladakh last year have so profoundly disturbed the relationship. Because they not only signalled a disregard for commitments about minimizing troop levels, but also showed a willingness to breach peace and tranquility,” EAM Jaishankar said at the opening session of the 13th All India Conference on China.

The EAM said India has yet to receive a credible explanation for the change in China’s stance or reasons for massing of troops in the border areas.

“It is a different matter that our own forces have responded appropriately and held their own in very challenging circumstances. The issue before us is what the Chinese posture signals, how it evolves, and what implications it may have for the future of our ties,” the EAM said.

Jaishankar maintained that even before 2020, when it came to interests and aspirations, some of the divergences were also apparent in India-China relations.To this regard, he referred to China’s practice of stapled-visas, reluctance to deal with some of India’s military commands.

“Then there was China’s opposition to India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and to a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. When it came to trade, promises of market access did not match delivery. The blocking of UN listing of Pakistani terrorists involved in attacks on India had its own resonance. And of course, the violation of Indian sovereignty by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,” the EAM said.

“Even the border areas saw frictions on some occasions. As the cumulative impact of these developments began to be felt, the two nations agreed at Astana in 2017 not to allow differences to become disputes. At the same time, they also endeavoured to enhance the factors of stability in the relationship. Subsequent Summits were largely in that direction and in fact, affirmed that very consensus. But far from mitigating differences, the events of 2020 have actually put our relationship under exceptional stress,” Jaishankar said.

Maintaining that he didn’t have a definitive answer to offer where India-China relationship was heading, Jaishankar said India-China ties could be determined by three mutuals-mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests.

“There are discussions underway through various mechanisms on disengagement at the border areas. But if ties are to steady and progress, policies must take into account the learnings of the last three decades,” the EAM said.

He outlined eight principles for stabilization of ties between the two countries: First and foremost, agreements already reached must be adhered to in their entirety, both in letter and spirit. Second, where the handling of the border areas are concerned, the LAC must be strictly observed and respected; any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo is completely unacceptable. Third, peace and tranquillity in the border areas is the basis for development of relations in other domains. If they are disturbed, so inevitably will the rest of the relationship.

This is quite apart from the issue of progress in the boundary negotiations. Fourth, while both nations are committed to a multi-polar world, there should be a recognition that a multi-polar Asia is one of its essential constituents. Fifth, obviously each state will have its own interests, concerns and priorities; but sensitivity to them cannot be one-sided. At the end of the day, relationships between major states are reciprocal in nature. Sixth, as rising powers, each will have their own set of aspirations and their pursuit too cannot be ignored. Seventh, there will always be divergences and differences but their management is essential to our ties. And eighth, civilizational states like India and China must always take the long view.