Jaishankar points out that China is not observing longstanding written agreements

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Taking a dig at China, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said Beijing has not observed longstanding written agreements with India and blamed it for the bloodshed at the borders in 2020, the first in more than four decades.

Speaking here at the inaugural Raisina Roundtable in Tokyo, an event by the think tank, Jaishankar also spoke about how he expected a change in Russia’s direction towards the rest of the world and it may likely want multiple options in Asia.

On a two-day trip to Japan, Jaishankar elaborated on the changing world order, saying, “There is a reality of a very big power shift in the Indo-Pacific. When there are very big shifts in capabilities and influence and presumably ambitions, then there are all the accompanying ambitions and strategic consequences.” “Now, it’s not an issue whether you like it or you don’t like it. There’s a reality out there, you have to deal with that reality,” he said and added, “Ideally, we would assume that everybody would say, okay, things are changing, but let’s keep it as stable as we can.” “Unfortunately, that’s not what we have seen in the last decade of our own experience in the case of China, for example, is between 1975 to 2020, which is really 45 years, there was no bloodshed on the border, and in 2020, changed,” he said.

“We can disagree on many things, but when a country actually sort of does not observe written agreements with a neighbour, I think, you have caused … because … then raises a question mark about the stability of the relationship and frankly, about intentions,” Jaishankar said in response to a question.

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

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.

India has been maintaining that its ties with China cannot be normal unless there is peace in the border areas.

“We see it in conflict in Europe, in disregard for international law in Asia, and in the ongoing developments in the Middle East and often in the weaponisation of the normal,” he said earlier in his prepared address.

“Longstanding agreements are not being necessarily observed, raising question marks about the stability of the environment in which we all operate,” he said, referring to the 1993 Border Peace and Tranquillity Agreement (BPTA) and the 1996 agreement on “Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field Along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas”.

Answering a question after his speech, he said, “That is why for India, in a changing world, our own equilibrium, our own balances with other countries are changing as well. They don’t have to be acrimonious, but the balance is changing.” The External Affairs Minister had on March 2 in Delhi raised a similar point while speaking at an interactive session of a think tank. “China must adhere to border management pacts and there has to be peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) for improvement in Sino-India ties,” Jaishankar asserted amid the lingering military face-off in eastern Ladakh.

In his remarks, in an apparent reference to India’s increasing economic strength, he said, “We cannot become, in GDP, from number 11 to number five and (expect) everything remains the same. It will not remain the same.” “But how to create new equilibriums … in a less frictional manner … I think that today, the management of the global order, some of us are trying to help. Some of us have other approaches to countries in various sectors and also that broadens the spectrum,” the Minister added.

The Minister also made an interesting comment about Russia and its changing approach. Pointing out how, during the last two years, Russia’s relationship with the West has broken down because of the Ukraine conflict, he said, “Economically, it means that a lot of access Russia had to the Western world is no longer there and historically, Russia has always put a premium that is the main axis for them.” “So you actually have today the prospect that Russia is turning more and more towards Asia. It can also turn to other continents but I would say Asia is the most dynamic possibility for them,” he observed.

The flow of Russian trade of investments of resources, and available collaborations towards Asian destinations will not be a short-term trend and continue for some years, he added.

“So I expect, actually, almost like a change in Russia’s direction towards the world and I think it has very interesting implications for us in Asia, because like any big power Russia will also want multiple options,” Jaishankar added. 

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