The relations between India and China have come under “severe stress” and the agreements made by the two sides over the past few years have to be respected to restore normalcy, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Saturday, reported PTI. Both India and China are trying to resolve the border stand-off along the Line of Actual Control, which began in May, but neither side has backed down.

“As far as China is concerned, ties were stable for three decades as the two nations addressed inherited challenges and new circumstances peace and tranquility in the border areas provided the basis for expanded cooperation in other domains,” Jaishankar said. “But as the pandemic unfolded, the relationship has come under severe stress.” The minister made the remarks at the Sardar Patel Memorial lecture, aired on All India Radio.

Any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo along the Line of Actual Control is unacceptable, he added. “The relationship cannot be immune to changes in the assumptions that underpinned it.”

Amid the border tensions with China, India has reiterated that the agreements made between the two countries since 1993 for management of the frontlines must be respected and implemented. New Delhi has also advocated for peace along the LAC as the basis of the overall development of the ties.

“Large civilisational states re-emerging in close proximity will not have naturally easy ties,” the foreign minister said on Saturday. “Their interests are best served by a sustained engagement based on mutual respect and mutual sensitivity.”

The minister also spoke about aspects of India’s view on national security, foreign policy, and the world order after the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. On security, Jaishankar said sweeping solutions without a firm groundwork would only lead to “dramatic politics”, reported The Indian Express. He added that India’s experience in “in expediting the creation of border infrastructure in the north shows how much difference sharper focus and better implementation can make”.

The border standoff

Military heads of the two countries have engaged in several rounds of talks over the last three months after 20 Indian and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed in violent clashes in Galwan Valley in Ladakh on June 15. However, these talks have failed to break the impasse.

Earlier this month, Beijing had said that it did not recognise Indian sovereignty over Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, claiming that India had illegally occupied Ladakh. In response, the Ministry of External Affairs said China has no locus standi to comment on the matter. The ministry said Ladakh as well as Arunachal Pradesh are integral parts of India and this has been conveyed to the Chinese side on many occasions.

On September 10, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. The two ministers agreed on a five-point plan to defuse tensions between the countries and said the current situation in the border areas of Ladakh was “not in the interest of either side”. They agreed, therefore, that the border troops of both sides should “continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions”.