“Work In Progress, Slower Than Desirable”: India On China Border Talks

Foreign Minister S Jaishankar addresses the media after meeting with China’s Wang Yi

New Delhi:

Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, after a three-hour meeting with his visiting Chinese counterpart Wang Yi today, described ties with China as “work in progress”, at a “slower pace than desirable”. He also said the relationship is “not normal”, because of border tension.

“Frictions, tensions rising from Chinese deployments since April 2020 cannot be reconciled with a normal relationship. Restoration of peace and tranquillity must find full expression in talks,” Mr Jaishankar told the media.

“If you ask me if our relationship today is normal, then my answer is ‘no it is not normal’ (because of the Chinese deployments). Our effort today is to sort out the issue in its entirety,” he said.

He said the discussions centred on bilateral relations that had been disturbed by China’s actions since April 2020.

“We have a situation where peace and tranquillity in border has been disturbed,” he said.

In Ladakh, there were still ongoing friction areas and there was “progress in other areas”, said the Foreign Minister. “Our discussion today was how to take this forward. So long as there are very large deployments in the border areas, clearly the border area situation is not normal. We have a situation there which is not normal,” he said.

“There should not be attempts to unilaterally change status quo.”

The relationship was best served by observing “three mutuals”, said Mr Jaishankar – mutual respect, mutual sensitivity, and mutual interest.

The two Foreign Ministers also discussed the Ukraine war.

Mr Jaishankar said he had also raised India’s objections to Wang’s comments on Kashmir at an event in Pakistan.

The Chinese minister had made a reference to Kashmir in his opening speech at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Pakistan, saying: “On Kashmir, we have heard again today the calls of many of our Islamic friends. And China shares the same hope.”

Mr Jaishankar said he had referred to the comments and had conveyed why India found them objectionable.

“I conveyed that we hope that China will follow an independent policy with respect to India and not allow its policies to be influenced by other countries and other relationships,” he said.

According to China’s statement on the meeting, Wang Yi said the two nations should “stick to the road of their own choice, correctly grasp the developmental direction of bilateral relations and work together to make their own contribution to regional and even world peace and stability.

“The two sides should adhere to the strategic judgement of the leaders of the two countries that ‘China and India pose no threat to each other and are opportunities for development’, put aside differences on the border issue in an appropriate position in bilateral relations, and stick to the correct development direction of bilateral relations,” Wang Yi said at the meeting.  

This was the highest level of engagement between the two countries since a deadly border clash in 2020 soured ties. Wang Yi arrived last night in an unannounced visit.

Wang Yi first met with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, who asserted that an “early and complete disengagement of troops” at points of friction along the border was key to restoring normal ties between the two countries.  

Mr Doval also called for removing “impediments” to allow bilateral ties to “take the natural course” and stressed that “actions should not violate the spirit of equal and mutual security”.

The Chinese Foreign Minister’s visit has been shrouded in secrecy, with no official word from either side.  His arrival could be confirmed only through the tracking of his plane’s flight path after it took off from Afghanistan on Thursday.

Mr Jaishankar said the Chinese did not want the visit to be announced earlier.

India-China relations nosedived in June 2020, when 20 Indian soldiers and several Chinese soldiers were killed in action in a deadly clash at Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh.

Over multiple military meetings, the two sides agreed to deescalate. The troops disengaged last year in the north and south banks of the Pangong lake and in the Gogra area, but India wants China to return to the status quo that prevailed before 2020.

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