EAM says hopeful for resolution to border row with China

NEW DELHI, 12 May: As the eastern Ladakh military standoff entered its fifth year, External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar said that India hopes for a resolution of the remaining issues with China, and asserted that a return to normal bilateral ties hinges on peace and tranquillity at the border.

In an exclusive interview to PTI, he said that the remaining issues mainly pertain to “patrolling rights” and “patrolling abilities.”

Specifically asked when a resolution to the row can be expected in the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks to Newsweekmagazine last month, Jaishankar said that he only provided a “big picture” viewpoint on the matter.

“We would hope that there is a resolution of the remaining issues out there. These issues mainly pertain to patrolling rights and patrolling abilities there,” he said.

“I would not link it to the prime minister’s interview per se. I think the prime minister was giving a big picture viewpoint and his big picture viewpoint was a very reasonable viewpoint, which is – after all as neighbours, every country wants good relations with its neighbours,” he said.

“But today, our relations with China are not normal because the peace and tranquillity in the border areas have been disturbed. So he (PM) was expressing hope that the Chinese side should realise that the present situation is not in its own interest,” Jaishankar said.

Modi had said that the border situation needs to be addressed urgently, and that stable and peaceful ties between India and China are important for not just the two countries but for the entire region and the world.

Jaishankar said that diplomacy is a work of patience and India continues to discuss the issues with the Chinese side.

“I would say that we need to resolve those issues if the relationship is to come back to normal,” he said during the interview on Thursday.

Indian and Chinese militaries have been locked in a standoff since May 2020 and a full resolution of the border row has not yet been achieved, though the two sides have disengaged from a number of friction points.

India has been consistently maintaining that peace and tranquillity along the LAC are key for normalisation of overall ties.

Asked why bilateral trade volume with China is going up when New Delhi has been insisting that the ties cannot be normal when the border situation is abnormal, Jaishankar suggested that such a scenario has arisen as adequate attention to the manufacturing sector was not given before 2014.

“I think it is common sense that if there is no peace and tranquillity in the border, how can you have a normal relationship,” he said.

“After all, if somebody is at your front door in an unfriendly manner, you are not going to go out there and act as though everything is normal. That to me is a straightforward proposition,” the minister added.

The ties between the two countries 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.

In the diplomatic and military talks with China, the Indian negotiators have been insisting on restoring the status quo ante of April 2020 along the line of actual control in eastern Ladakh. (PTI)