New Delhi: The state of the border will determine the state of the India-China relationship, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Monday, asserting that ties must be based on mutual sensitivity, mutual respect, and mutual interest.
The external affairs minister’s comments came amid the lingering military standoff between the two countries in a number of friction points in eastern Ladakh.
In his address at the launch of the Asia Society Policy Institute, Jaishankar said much of the future of Asia depends on how relations between India and China develop in the foreseeable future and that the continent lacks an agreed architecture of any nature.
“For ties to return to a positive trajectory and remain sustainable, they must be based on the three mutuals: mutual sensitivity, mutual respect and mutual interest,” he said.
“Their current status is, of course, well known to all of you. I can only reiterate that the state of the border will determine the state of the relationship,” he added.
Indian and Chinese troops have been engaged in a standoff at a number of friction points in eastern Ladakh for over two years.
Though the two sides disengaged in several areas in the region as a result of high-level military talks, the deadlock stays without any major breakthrough.
On the overall vision for Asia, Jaishankar said a narrow “Asian chauvinism” is actually against the continent’s own interest.
“Precisely because Asia is so energetic and creative, it would like to benefit from the open doors of other regions. That obviously cannot be a one-way street,” he said.
“Such an outlook also goes against the reality of globalisation. Whether it is resources, markets or supply chains, these can no longer be compartmentalised,” he said in an oblique reference to China’s policies.
Jaishankar also said that Asia’s prospects and challenges are today very much dependent on developments in the Indo-Pacific.
“In fact, the concept itself is a reflection of divided Asia, as some have a vested interest in keeping the region less cohesive and interactive,” he said.
“That the global commons and the international community are better served by collaborative endeavours like the Quad apparently leaves them cold,” he said.
China has been increasingly suspicious about the Quad that comprises India, the US, Australia, and Japan.
“Developing even a basic strategic consensus in Asia is, therefore, clearly a formidable task.
As the international order evolves, this desire to selectively retain elements of the 1945 situation while transforming others — and we see that in the UN as well — complicates world politics,” Jaishankar said.
He said there are resident powers in Asia like the United States or the proximate ones like Australia who have legitimate interests in the continent.
“Their contribution is also invaluable for securing the global commons. India’s universalist outlook, expressed in the belief of the world as a family, encourages it to go beyond exclusivist approaches,” he said.
In a reference to the “Asia for Asian” approach of the Bandung Conference, he said it was encouraged by political romanticism which got a reality check within few years.
Jaishankar said a united front works when participants are confident of the vision and that requires at least a moderate level of mutual trust.
“Even in the past, this was not an easy challenge to address. It is obviously much more difficult now. Asia for Asians is also a sentiment that was encouraged in the past, even in our own country, by political romanticism,” he said.
“The Bandung spirit, however, got its reality check within its first decade. Indeed, the experience of the past affirms that Asians are second to none when it comes to realpolitik,” he observed.
The Bandung Conference of 1955 among India, Pakistan, Burma, and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and some other countries was considered a major initiative as the leaders of the participating nations agreed on peaceful coexistence and freedom from the superpowers’ hegemony in the backdrop of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union.
Jaishankar said “three shocks”, of the Covid pandemic, the Ukraine conflict, and climatic disturbances, are also impacting the evolution of the Asian economy.
“Together, they make a powerful case for more engines of growth and resilient and reliable supply chains,” he said.
“There is a parallel debate underway in the digital world that focuses around trust and transparency. How these will translate into strategic outcomes is still too early to predict,” he added.