Broader relationship with China affected by border developments: India

Asserting with emphasis that peace and tranquillity in the border areas is a "sine qua non" for India and China to work together, India's Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has said New Delhi hopes that Beijing will work with it to bring a satisfactory resolution to the current issues, keeping in view each other's sensitivities and interests

Oct 22, 2021
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India's Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla

Asserting with emphasis that peace and tranquillity in the border areas is a "sine qua non" for India and China to work together, India's Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has said New Delhi hopes that Beijing will work with it to bring a satisfactory resolution to the current issues, keeping in view each other's sensitivities and interests. In his remarks at a seminar on "Leveraging China's Economy", Shringla also said the developments along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh have "seriously disturbed" the peace and tranquillity in border areas, and this has obviously had an impact on the broader relationship too.

He referred to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar's remarks that the ability of India and China to work together will determine the Asian century, PTI news agency said. 

"For this to materialise, peace and tranquillity in the border areas is a sine qua non. He (S Jaishankar) has also clearly articulated that development of our ties can only be based on mutuality -- mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests should guide this process," Shringla said.

"We hope that the Chinese side will work with us to bring a satisfactory resolution to the current issues so as to make progress on our bilateral relations keeping in view each other's sensitivities, aspirations and interests," he added.

The border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on May 5 last year following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas and both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry.

As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process in the Gogra area in August and in the north and south banks of the Pangong lake in February. Each side currently has around 50,000 to 60,000 troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the sensitive sector, according to sources, and the current border standoff is expected to continue into the Himalayan winter.

In his remarks, Shringla also talked about the issues of concerns in the Sino-India trade relationship such as the widening trade deficit and increase in trade barriers.

"China is our largest neighbour. With its GDP reaching $14.7 trillion in 2020, China's economy is the second-largest in the world. Under the shadow of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, China is the only major economy to have registered positive growth in 2020," he said. Being the largest contributor to world trade and our largest trading partner, it is imperative for us to have a better understanding of China's economy, Shringla said.

He noted that India's relations generally followed a positive trajectory since 1988 when the two country's re-established contacts at the highest level.

"We were engaged in developing a broad-based bilateral relationship. The advancement of ties in this period was clearly predicated on ensuring that peace and tranquillity were not disturbed. The areas of cooperation were not limited to bilateral but also had regional and global dimensions," he said.

It was also recognised that relations between India and China were in the interest of not only our two countries but also in the interest of peace, stability and security in the region and world at large, Shringla said at the seminar organised by the Centre for Contemporary China Studies.

Noting that last year, the total trade volume between the two countries was around $88 billion, Shringla said in the first nine months of this year, the bilateral trade touched $90 billion, an increase of 49 per cent over last year. "At this rate, we are likely to attain the highest ever bilateral trade between two countries," he said.

The trade, however, remains unbalanced with a large trade balance in favour of China, he pointed out.

There are a number of market access impediments including a whole host of non-tariff barriers, for most of our agricultural products and the sectors we are competitive in, such as pharmaceutical, IT/ITES, etc., he said.

"We have highlighted that widening deficit and increase in trade barriers are issues of concern. These have been regularly flagged at the highest level, most recently at the 2nd Informal Summit between our Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) and the Chinese President in Chennai in 2019," Shringla said.

He also said the government remains firm in its commitment to place this trade relationship on a more sustainable footing and raising these issues at all appropriate occasions with the Chinese side.

"Furthermore, the developments along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh have seriously disturbed the peace and tranquillity in border areas. This has obviously had an impact on the broader relationship too," he said.

Meanwhile, Indian Army Chief, General M M Naravane said India should not expect a favourable outcome in every round of talks being held with China to settle border issues and "points of divergence" with the neighbouring country will be resolved as long as both the nations keep talking. "There were 4-5 points of friction (between India and China during the border talks) and we have resolved all but one. I am sure in another couple of rounds -- I can't give a definitive figure whether one more or two more -- we will be able to resolve these issues also as we proceed," Gen Naravane said.

Earlier this month, India and China failed to make any headway in resolving the 17-month standoff in the remaining friction points in eastern Ladakh during the 13th round of military talks between the two countries.

In an interaction at a defence conclave, Gen Naravane said that the situation at the eastern Ladakh border with China is better and more stable now from what existed almost a year ago.

"What I would like to put across is that we should not expect a favourable outcome in every round of talks. There are always going to be some points of convergence, some differences," he said.

"As long as we keep talking, we will be able to resolve those points of divergence and come closer and closer together and by and by resolve all the issues that are there," he said.