China’s decision to amass troops along the Line of Actual Control was a violation of its written commitments, said External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, after a meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne in Melbourne, where the India-China situation was discussed.
The comments came amid global concerns over tensions in Ukraine as Russia and NATO amassed forces along the border. While Mr. Jaishankar sidestepped several questions on whether India was on the “same page” as Western countries on the Ukraine situation, where the U.S. has declared Russia could invade “at any time,” he called for diplomacy to work.
“The situation [at the LAC in Ladakh] has arisen due to the disregard by China in 2020 of written agreements with us not to amass forces at the border. So, when a large country disregards written commitments, I think it’s an issue of legitimate concern for the entire international community,” Mr. Jaishankar told journalists during a press conference.
Mr. Jaishankar also dismissed a Chinese statement attacking the Quad forum of Australia-India-Japan-United States that met on Friday as a “tool to contain China,” saying the Quad’s purpose was “peace, prosperity, stability in the region.”
“Our record, actions and stance are fairly clear and by criticising them repeatedly, it doesn’t make us less credible,” he added, in response to the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson calling the Quad ministerial meeting “a deliberate move to stoke confrontation.”
On a lighter note, Mr. Jaishankar said anyone doubting the Quad’s “positive” agenda should have witnessed the visit to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) by him, Ms. Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa, where the two cricket-playing nations India and Australia had taught baseball-enthusiasts U.S. and Japan about the intricacies of spin bowling.
Speaking about the bilateral agenda, Mr. Jaishankar welcomed an announcement by Ms. Payne for Australian scholarships and fellowships for Indian students under a new “Maitri initiative” that would enable more students to study at Australian universities, especially now that travel restrictions have been lifted.
The remarks by Mr. Jaishankar on China’s broken commitments are the strongest such comments in recent weeks over the situation at the LAC, where Chinese PLA troops have transgressed territory since April 2020.
In contrast, in January, after the 14th round of border commander talks, Army chief General Manoj Naravane had said that their talks were “positive and encouraging” and that “five of the five or six” points of friction had already been resolved in talks, comments that had been criticised as they left out areas such as the Depsang plains and Demchok where the Chinese troops remain.