First act of bloodshed in 45 years caused India - China's ties to be "profoundly disturbed"

Foreign minister Subrahmanya Jaishanka said that trust with China has been damaged after China - India border clash, causing first deaths in 45 years, and U.S - India's relationship was on upswing under the incoming Biden administration.
January 14, 2021 | 07:03
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India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar at the Reuters Next conference [Photo: Screengrab/Reuters]

India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said on Tuesday that trust with China had been deeply impaired after last summer’s border clash which resulted in the first combat deaths in 45 years. Ties with the United States, on the other hand, were converging and were likely to expand under the new administration in Washington, India’s top diplomat told the Reuters Next conference.

According to Hindustan Times, the relationship between India and China has been “profoundly disturbed” by the first incident of bloodshed along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in 45 years, which had a “huge impact” on public opinion, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Tuesday.

Jaishankar made the remarks at the virtual Reuters Next conference, even as Indian Army chief Gen MM Naravane told a news briefing that troops are prepared to hold ground along the LAC for as long as needed to meet national objectives. The standoff in Ladakh sector, Naravane said, will be resolved on the basis of mutual and equal security.

“After 45 years, you’ve actually had bloodshed on the border,” Jaishankar said, referring to the clash between Indian and Chinese troops at Galwan Valley in June last year that left 20 Indian soldiers dead and resulted in unspecified Chinese casualties.

“And that’s had a huge impact on public opinion and politically...really the impact on trust and confidence in India where China and their relationship is concerned. That has been profoundly disturbed,” he added.

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Chinese troops in Ladakh holding a banner in 2013 that reads, “You've crossed the border, please go back.” (Photo: Associated Press)

The two countries fought a border war in 1962, but until last summer they had largely kept a lid on tensions along the Line of Actual Control, the de facto border, while expanding commercial ties, told the Reuters.

“Now last year, for reasons which are not clear to us, the Chinese really brought an enormous military force to one part of the border. And then at the Line of Actual Control, obviously we moved up when we saw them coming and that has sort of created, friction points along the Line of Actual Control,” Jaishankar said.

Tens of thousands of troops from both sides have dug in for the harsh winter along the LAC, backed by artillery and armoured formations. Several rounds of diplomatic and military talks between the two countries have not led to headway in disengagement and de-escalation at friction points in Ladakh.

The deaths in Galwan Valley were the first fatalities on the LAC since four Indian soldiers were killed at Tulung La in Arunachal Pradesh in 1975. Jaishankar has said several times that Chinese aggressive actions along the LAC have violated several agreements for maintaining peace and tranquillity on the disputed border.

India – US’s ties on upswing

Jaishankar said relations with the US were on the upswing and he was confident about its direction under the incoming Biden administration.

“When I look at many of the challenges we face, the US is going to be much more open looking for partners and I’m confident about where we are going with the relationship,” he said.

“Structurally, the relationship with the US is very, very sound, it has very unique elements, there is political convergence, growing security and defence convergence,” he added.

Shared concerns about China have led to greater cooperation between India and the other members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad – Australia, Japan and the US – in recent months.

On the issue of trade, Jaishankar acknowledged that India and the US had got bogged down in details and lost the “wood for the trees”. Negotiators had worked towards a mini trade deal for months without making headway, and he said India will respond positively to any offer from the Biden administration to restart some kind of free trade talks.

Jaishankar also told the Reuters Next conference that the government will have greater clarity within the next few weeks on exporting Covid-19 vaccines after meeting domestic needs. India, he said, understands the anxieties of foreign governments with regard to getting the vaccines delivered to their populations.

India is one of the world’s largest producers of vaccines and pharmaceutical products and supplied medicines and equipment to some 150 countries amid the pandemic. It is expected to be a key manufacturing centre for Covid-19 vaccines.

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