India, China Made Some Progress, but Larger Problem Remains: Jaishankar on Ladakh Border Row

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There has been no lack of resolve, firmness and effectiveness in terms of what India has to do to protect its national security, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Friday on the eastern Ladakh border standoff with China. He also said that India and China made some progress by carrying out disengagement in a number of areas including Pangong Tso but added that the “larger problem” of “sizeable deployment” of Chinese troops in the region remains.

In an interactive session at the India Today conclave, Jaishankar said the situation will continue as it is till China maintains the deployment of the troops. “Let me be very very clear about one thing. Yes, they have done things which were in contravention of agreements etc, but there has been no lack of resolve and firmness or effectiveness in terns of what we have to do to protect our national security,” he said. Jaishankar said India also made additional deployments and they stayed through one winter.

“We are getting it close to another winter. I have every confidence that Indian armed forces will do what they have to do to protect this country and I expect everybody else who is reasonably patriotic to have the same confidence,” he said. Asked about reports of Rahul Gandhi walking out of a meeting of Parliamentary Committee on foreign affairs a few months ago demanding discussions on the border row and charges that the government is not maintaining transparency with the opposition on the matter, Jaishankar rejected the criticisms.

The external affairs minister said he expected that “people outside the government would be supportive of larger national objectives and goals”. “Now if sometimes it does not happen because people are busy politicking, I just have to say it is a very sorry state of affairs,” he said, adding “nobody can say that I have not been told enough or there has been a lack of briefings.” “Somewhere, we need a sense of responsibility and maturity when it comes to matters of national security,” he said. On the border row, he said India developed a decent relationship with China that was predicated on the fact that there would be peace and tranquillity in the border areas. “This was not just an assumption or conversation, it was written into agreements between us. Now come 2020, we saw the Chinese side disregard those agreements for reasons which are still not clear to us,” Jaishankar said. “I still have not heard a credible explanation as to why they chose to bring that size of forces to that sector of our border. Now, if peace and tranquillity is disturbed and attempts are being made to change the LAC status quo unilaterally and large forces are brought to the border in contravention of written agreements, then obviously the relationship will be impacted,” he said.

Jaishankar said there was a need to stick to the border agreements for the relationship to return to normal. “If we need to get back to a normal relationship which they say they want, and which both of us believe is in our mutual interest, then I think they need to stick with the agreements to do the right things,” he said.

The border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on May 5 last year in eastern Ladakh following a violent clash in the Pangong lake area. 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. In February, the two sides completed the withdrawal of troops and weapons from the north and south banks of the Pangong lake in line with an agreement on disengagement.

Each side currently has around 50,000 to 60,000 troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the sensitive sector.

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