Ahead of his expected talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Moscow, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on 7 September spoke like a diplomat on the state of the border with China, which he said could not be de-linked from the state of the overall relationship with the neighbouring country.
The external affairs minister described the situation in eastern Ladakh as “very serious” which he said calls for “very, very deep conversation” between the two sides at a political level.
Jaishankar was speaking at an interactive session by The Indian Express newspaper in a manner as though he was still donning the hat of an IFS officer rather than a minister from whom a more aggressive tenor of speech was expected.
“The state of the border cannot be de-linked from the state of the relationship. I wrote it before that unfortunate incident happened in Galwan,” Jaishankar said referring to his newly published book ”The India Way”.
Tensions escalated manifold along the Line of Actual Control (LoAC) in eastern Ladakh after the Galwan Valley clashes on June 15 in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed in the line of duty. The Chinese side suffered casualties too, but it was only from the US intelligence sources that the world came to know 35 Chinese soldiers were killed and many more were injured in the clash.
“If peace and tranquility on the border is not a given, then it cannot be that the rest of the relationship continues on the same basis, because clearly peace and tranquility is the basis for the relationship,” the external affairs minister said.
Jaishankar is set to meet Wang Yi on 10 September in Moscow on the sidelines of the meeting of the foreign ministers of the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
“Exactly what I will tell him, obviously I am not going to tell you,” Jaishankar said when asked what message he will deliver to his Chinese counterpart.
The minister, however, said the broad principle around which his position would be constructed would be about the importance of maintaining peace and tranquility along the border for the overall development of ties which has been reflected in the last 30 years of the relationship.
The minister talked also about the number of pacts between the two countries on the border management since 1993, saying they clearly stipulated keeping forces at a minimum level along the border and largely shaped the behaviour of the armed forces.
“If these are not observed, then it raises very very important questions… I note that this very serious situation has been going on since the beginning of May, this calls for very very deep conversation between the two sides at a political level,” Jaishankar said.
The minister said there were problems left over from history as well. “We have problems left over from history which continue to be an overhang on the relationship,” he said, calling the current standoff as of “a very different order”.