The relationship between India and China is going through an “extremely difficult phase” after Beijing’s unilateral attempts to alter the status quo at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, said External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday, reported PTI.

Jaishankar was referring to the border standoff between India and China since their troops clashed in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in June 2020. The two sides have held 16 rounds of commander-level talks to resolve the dispute.

Jaishankar made the remarks in response to questions posed at the “India’s Vision of the Indo-Pacific” lecture at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand.

At the event, Jaishankar also said that the world will witness the Asian Century only when China and India come together. Asian Century refers to the dominant role that Asia is expected to play in the 21st century.

“I think if India and China have to come together, there are many reasons to do so, not necessarily only Sri Lanka,” he said.

Both India and China have provided financial assistance to Sri Lanka, which is facing its worst economic crisis in its post-independence history.

Jaishankar said that India has done the best of its abilities to help the island country. “Any help we can give to Sri Lanka at the IMF [International Monetary Fund] that we will naturally do,” he added.

‘We are not the only oil importer from Russia’

The minister also dismissed criticism about India’s purchase of oil from Russia, reported the Hindustan Times. “We are not the only oil importer and... there are no sanctions on oil,” he said.

European countries and the United States have imposed heavy sanctions on Russia after it invaded Ukraine on February 24. However, India has maintained a neutral approach towards Moscow.

On March 16, India said it was exploring options to buy Russian crude oil, as its prices had tumbled to their lowest amid the Ukraine conflict and the sanctions imposed on Moscow by western countries.

On Thursday, Jaishankar pointed out that there were other countries and regions that made a “very articulate” approach to the Russian invasion but have taken care of their own interests.

“I think it’s reasonable that we too be allowed to take care of our interests, particularly because we are a low-income society,” the minister said. “For us, the increase in energy prices really hurt.”

The statement came after Ukraine on Wednesday criticised India for buying crude oil from Russia and said that it expected “more practical support” from New Delhi.

“Every barrel of Russian crude that India gets, has a good portion of Ukrainian blood in it,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had said. “We are friendly and open to India. I supported the evacuation of Indian students.”

On Tuesday, Jaishankar justified India’s decision to buy oil from Russia, saying that every country tries to ensure the best deal possible to cushion high energy prices.

‘India-China dialogue effective,’ says Wang Wenbin

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Friday backed Jaishankar’s remarks on Asian Century, PTI reported.

A leader in Beijing said once that if China and India cannot achieve sound development, then an Asian Century cannot be achieved, Wang told reporters at a briefing. “China and India are two ancient civilisations, two emerging economies and two big neighbours,” he added.

Wang also reiterated that India and China have far more common interests than differences, and that the two neighbouring countries should not post a threat to each other.

“It is hoped that Indian side can work with China in the same direction to follow through on the common understanding between our two leaders on being each other’s cooperative partners, not causing threats to each other and presenting each other with development opportunities, so that China-India relations can come back to the right track of sound and steady development at an early date and uphold common interest of China, India and the developing world,” Wang said.

On being asked if China will hold talks with India to resolve the border tensions in Eastern Ladakh, Wang said that the “dialogue is effective”.

“I would like to stress that China and India maintain smooth communication over the border issues,” he added, PTI reported.

Wang also addressed China’s stance on the Quad grouping, which includes India, US, Japan and Australia. The bloc intends to offer partner countries an opportunity to counter China’s rising commercial presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

“China’s position on Quad is consistent and clear,” Wang said. “I would like to stress that in a world of peace, cooperation and openness, there will be no support if one seeks to create small cliques, because it is against the trend of the times.”

In May, China had criticised the grouping by calling it an attempt to “create a closed club”.