Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar on Wednesday told Rediff.com that the recent military stand-off between India and China in Ladakh was “surely the most serious situation” since the 1962 Indo-China war over Aksai Chin. “In fact, after 45 years, we have had military casualties on this border,” he added. “The quantum of forces currently deployed by both sides at the Line of Actual Control is also unprecedented.”
Tensions between India and China escalated after a clash between the two countries’ armies on June 15 in Ladakh led to the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers and an unidentified number of Chinese soldiers. Several rounds of talks have so far failed to break the impasse.
On August 21, the Ministry of External Affairs said India and China have agreed to resolve all outstanding problems in an “expeditious manner”. The fourth meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs since tensions first broke out on the border in May was held the same day.
In the interview to Rediff.com, Jaishankar said that India was talking to China both through military channels and diplomatic ones to diffuse tensions. “But when it comes to finding a solution, this must be predicated on honouring all agreements and understandings,” he added. “And not attempting to alter the status quo unilaterally.”
After the clash, the Ministry of External Affairs had said the face-off was a Chinese attempt to “unilaterally change the status quo in the area”. China has reportedly also refused to vacate areas along the undefined border that were traditionally patrolled by the Indian Army.
The foreign minister on Wednesday said that India has clearly told China that peace and tranquility in the border areas are the basis for their relationship. “If you look back over the last decade, there have been a number of border situations – Depsang, Chumar and Doklam,” he added. “In a sense, each one was different. This one [Ladakh clash] surely is. But what is also common is that all borders situations were resolved through diplomacy.”
Jaishankar added that the government will do “what it takes” to secure the country’s borders. “What I have said is that the ability of India and China to work together could determine the Asian century,” he said. “But their difficulties in doing so may well undermine it. So, this is an extremely consequential relationship for both.”
The minister added that the relationship between the two countries requires “strategy and a vision”. “We need honest conversations on this, among Indians and between India and China,” he said.