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“Relationship cannot be Normal Unless…”: S Jaishankar on China ties

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday asserted that India’s relationship with China cannot be normal unless there is peace in the border areas and there is no ambiguity in New Delhi’s signalling to that country.

“I am saying that unless there is peace and tranquillity in the border areas, unless there is observance of agreements and no unilateral attempt made to change status quo, the relationship cannot be normal and is not normal,” Mr Jaishankar said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.

Referring to the Galwan Valley clashes, he said what happened in 2020 was an “attempt by one party, and we know which one, to depart from agreements and understandings and that is at the heart of the issue”.

“Have we made progress from then? In some respects, yes. Relatively speaking there were multiple friction points. In those friction points, there were dangerously close up deployments by the military, I think some of those issues have been worked out keeping in mind equal and mutual security,” Mr Jaishankar said.

“But there are some which still need to be worked upon. I think it’s in the nature of what I do that…it’s important to persevere and to keep pushing. Because it is tough or it is complicated, you don’t say, well that’s not going to happen,” he said.

The external affairs minister hoped that there will be realisation in China that the present situation is not even in its interest.

“I keep on at it and I do genuinely believe that there will be, there should be a realisation that the present state of relations is not even in China’s own interest,” he said.

“We are doing a lot of things in terms of various policies and various pronouncements and the state of relations after all, ask yourself if you are an objective observer, looking at the state of relations would you suggest that everything is okay and this can carry on without any negative impact for the parties concerned, I don’t think so,” he added.

Mr Jaishankar said there is no ambiguity in India’s messaging to China.

“I don’t think there is any ambiguity about our signalling and our messaging. They will weigh it from their interests and where they are but…it isn’t just a matter of public sentiment, and public sentiment is strong…I think it is government policy, it is national thinking, public sentiment and strategic calculation. I do not think that the current state can continue without damage to the relationship,” he said.

The ties between India and China nosedived significantly following the fierce clash in the Galwan Valley in June 2020 that marked the most serious military conflict between the two sides in decades.

There has been no progress yet on resolving the standoff in the Demchok and Depsang regions of eastern Ladakh though the two sides withdrew troops from a number of friction points following a series of military and diplomatic talks.

India has been consistently maintaining that peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control were key for the overall development of the bilateral ties.

The eastern Ladakh border standoff erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas.