Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Foreign Minister suggests way forward for India-China ties


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Way ahead for India-China relations

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has given useful insight on the future of India-China ties amid heating border tensions and has suggested the best way forward.

Statements made by EAM are major breakthrough in itself. They are the most logical and amply reflect his perfect statesmanship.

We can imbibe such statements in our answers as they hold extraordinary significance like any gospel.

Key takeaways from EAM’s speech

  • 2020 was a year of exceptional stress in a relationship profoundly disturbed by the border crisis.
  • China’s actions last year had not only signaled a disregard of commitments to reduce troop levels” but also “a willingness” to breach the peace and tranquillity on the border.
  • For all the disagreements we had, the fact is the border areas still remained fundamentally peaceful with the last incident of a loss of life in 1975, prior to 2020.
  • Until now, India is yet to receive a credible explanation for the change in China’s stance or reasons for its amassing of troops.
  • Any expectation that can be brushed aside and life can carry on undisturbed despite the situation in the border is simply not realistic.

China’s contentious moves

  • China did a unilateral attempt to redraw the LAC in several areas in eastern Ladakh
  • China’s issuing of stapled visas to Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir in 2010
  • Reluctance from China to deal with some of India’s military commands, Beijing had that same year refused to host the Northern Army Commander
  • China’s opposition to India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the U.N. Security Council as a permanent member
  • Blocking of U.N. listings of Pakistani terrorists, and
  • China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, violating India’s sovereignty

Gone is the past

  • Both sides had “painstakingly” worked to normalize relations after the post-1962 war freeze and the first prime ministerial visit in 1988.
  • For the border areas, he said, both had agreed a complete and practical set of understandings and agreements focused on border management, while negotiations were being conducted on the boundary dispute.
  • The advancement of ties, he said, was predicated on ensuring that peace and tranquillity were not disturbed, and the LAC was both observed and respected by both sides.
  • For this reason, it was explicitly agreed the two countries would refrain from massing troops on their common border, along with a detailed understanding of handling frictions that would arise.

No progress over the years

  • Over the years, he said, there was no sign of progress of arriving at a common understanding of the LAC, while there was increasing construction of border infrastructure, especially in the Chinese side.
  • India had made efforts to reduce the considerable infrastructure gap since 2014, including through greater budgetary commitments and border road building.

Way forward

The External Affairs Minister suggested “three mutuals” and “eight broad propositions” as a way forward for the relationship.

#Three mutuals

Mutual respect, mutual sensitivities and mutual interests are the “determining factors”.

#Major propositions

(1) Adhering to commitment

  • The first proposition was that agreements already reached must be adhered to in their entirety, both in letter and in spirit.

(2) Respect for LAC

  • Both sides also needed to strictly observe and respect the LAC, and any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo was completely unacceptable.

(3) Maintaining peace and tranquillity

  • Peace and tranquillity in border areas was the basis for the development of the relationship in other domains. If that was disturbed, he said, the rest of the relationship would be too.

(4) Broader partnership

  • The fourth proposition was that while both remain committed to a multipolar world, they should recognise that a multipolar Asia was one of its essential constituents.

(5) Reciprocity

  • While each state had its interests, concerns and priorities, sensitivities to them could not be one-sided and relations were reciprocal in nature. As rising powers, neither should ignore the other’s set of aspirations.

(6) Divergences management

  • While both sides had made a common cause on development and economic issues and common membership of plurilateral groups was a meeting point, there were divergences when it came to interests and aspirations.

(7) Civilizational ties

  • The last proposition was that as civilizational states, India and China must always take the long view.

(8) Cooperation and competition

  • Even before the events of 2020, the relationship had reflected a duality of cooperation and competition.

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