China must not view India through the lens of its ties with other countries, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar told his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, as they met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan, on Thursday.
Both discussed the ongoing impasse at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh which, they said, had left relations at a “low ebb”.
A statement issued after the meeting, held after the two last met in the same city at the SCO Foreign Ministers’ meeting in July, said they agreed to more talks by military and diplomatic officials to resolve the “ remaining issues on disengagement ”.
A Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) statement said, “Both sides had agreed that a prolongation of the existing situation was not in the interest of either side as it was impacting the relationship in a negative manner. EAM therefore emphasised that the two sides should work towards early resolution of the remaining issues along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh while fully abiding by bilateral agreements and protocols”.
Jaishankar sresses on peace
According to the MEA, Mr. Jaishankar once again stressed that peace and tranquillity along the LAC, which depended on resolving all the remaining issues of the 17-month-long stand-off, was an “essential basis” for progress in bilateral relations, but it is understood the two Ministers did discuss global developments, including Afghanistan, during their talks.
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Mr. Jaishankar said that “Asian solidarity” depended on the example set by India-China relations and, in a possible reference to growing U.S.-India ties, added that China should “avoid viewing our bilateral relations from the perspective of its relations with third countries”.
The remarks are significant as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who addressed the SCO via videoconference on Friday, is travelling to Washington next week to attend the Quad summit with leaders of the U.S., Australia and Japan, where their common position on China’s actions in the Indo-Pacific will be watched most closely.
A statement from China’s Foreign Ministry quoted Mr. Wang as saying “the recent communication between the two foreign affairs and military departments was earnest and effective, and the overall situation in the border area was gradually de-escalated.”
He said China “hopes that India will meet China halfway to move the situation towards stability and shift it from urgent dispute settlement to regular management and control.”
“Both sides need to consolidate the disengagement results of the front-line troops, and strictly abide by the protocols and agreements and the consensus reached between the two countries, to jointly safeguard the peace and tranquility of the border area and prevent the recurrence of border-related issues,” the statement noted, adding that Mr. Wang said “as two major emerging economies, China and India must continue to uphold the strategic consensus of being opportunities of development to each other rather than threats, push the bilateral relationship and practical cooperation onto a healthy and stable track.”
13th round of military talks
Indian and Chinese officials are due to hold the 13th round of military talks to resolve the situation at the LAC that began in April last year, when China amassed its troops along the boundary in Eastern Ladakh and transgressed into several areas, leading to the Galwan clashes in which 20 Indian soldiers, and at least four Chinese soldiers, were killed .
Of those areas, the two sides completed disengagement of troops in the Galwan Valley, both the banks of Pangong Tso (lake) and Gogra, but friction points remain to be resolved at Hot Springs, Demchok and Depsang. Both sides have, for the first time, put in place temporary “buffer zones” to avoid further clashes.
Gen. Rawat’s comment
The meeting between the foreign ministers came two days after Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Bipin Rawat said India must prepare to deal with its “adversaries” on both fronts: with China and Pakistan. He had also called China’s moves on Afghanistan, and “making friends” with Iran and Turkey, a “jointmanship between the Sinic and Islamic civilisations”, and asked whether that could lead to a “clash of civilisations” with the West.
Apparently contradicting the CDS’s comments, Mr. Jaishankar told Mr. Wang that India did not believe in the “clash of civilisations theory” (famously propounded by U.S. academic Samuel Huntington). “EAM conveyed that India had never subscribed to any clash of civilisations theory. He said that India and China had to deal with each other on merits and establish a relationship based on mutual respect.” the MEA statement said.
Talks on Afghanistan
In Dushanbe, Mr. Jaishankar also held talks with other senior officials on the sidelines of the summit with Afghanistan figuring prominently in many of those discussions, including what he described as “an exchange of courtesies- and perspectives- with President Raisi of Iran.” He also met his Iranian counterpart and “discussed strengthening our bilateral relations and working together on regional challenges”.
Mr. Jaishankar said he had with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “a useful discussion on contemporary issues, including Afghanistan”. The Minister’s interactions also included discussions with the foreign ministers of Belarus, Uzbekistan and Armenia.