While solving the boundary question will take time, Jaishankar said, border peace remained the minimum common denominator for taking the relationship forward.
Countering China’s claims, India has repeatedly said Sino-Indian ties won’t return to normal till the time the disengagement process in eastern Ladakh is carried forward. The government sees Chinese forward deployment along the LAC in the region, in violation of the bilateral agreements for border peace, as the main issue right now that Beijing must first address instead of conflating it with the larger border dispute.Jaishankar said while the relationship with China had even earlier been competitive, it also had a “bottom-line stability” because , from 1988, India and China had a very clear understanding that peace and tranquillity on the border was a prerequisite for the development of our ties.
“Now, I don’t want you to confuse this with solving the border boundary question, because the Chinese often try to conflate the two. We know that solving the boundary question will take time, but at least ensuring peace and tranquillity, which means basically no acts of violence on the border, is the minimum common denominator for moving the relationship forward,” said the minister in an interview to The Economist, adding that from 1988 till 2020, that understanding largely held.
“But what China did in 2020, when covid was under way, at least in this country, please remember, we were in the middle of a lockdown at that time, that had consequences. Or perhaps they thought it had consequences, even operationally. To move, during the lockdown, the biggest number of forces since 1962, in violation of two agreements, which had explicit clauses which prevented them from doing so…I think that has raised a whole lot of question marks. That it led to fatalities has aggravated matters. So unless we find a resolution to that, no government can, at least in my opinion, pretend that everything is okay, and let’s do business in every other part of our relationship. That’s just completely unrealistic,” said Jaishankar.
Asked how the settlement of the disengagement process in Depsang and Demchok, the 2 remaining friction points in the military standoff that started in May 2020, would impact India’s ties with US, the minister said that this round of problems with China started in the summer of 2020 and there’s no correlation between this and the development of India’s relations with the United States.
He said India’s relations with the US had been steadily developing for two decades, and in the last decade, had accelerated. “There’s empirical data out there to show that quite independently of anything that happened on the China border, India-US relations were ticking along, more than ticking along, just fine. So I won’t encourage you to make that connection at all. I think it’s a false one,” he said.