External affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Thursday it is imperative for Indian and China to “reach an accommodation” as the solution to the standoff along the Line of Actual Control has to be found in the “domain of diplomacy”.
Jaishankar made the remarks during an online event organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) to mark the release of his book ‘The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World’, during which the relationship with China and the standoff figured prominently.
Besides questions on the impact of the standoff on bilateral ties, Jaishankar was asked what he would say when he meets his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during a meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) foreign ministers in Moscow on September 10.
“As to what I will be talking with my Chinese colleague when I meet him – I mean, we have known each other a long time, so you can have a reasonable guess,” Jaishankar replied, without giving details.
The external affairs ministry confirmed on Thursday that the minister will join the September 10 meeting but there has been no official word of a bilateral meeting with Wang.
This is the first time the two ministers will come face to face since the standoff emerged in public, though they have participated in virtual meetings of various groupings and also spoken in the aftermath of the June 15 clash that left 20 Indian soldiers dead. They will also join a virtual meeting of BRICS foreign ministers on September 4.
Responding to another question on whether China is in India’s way, Jaishankar said this wasn’t the “easiest of times” in the bilateral relationship, but added that it was “imperative and vital for both countries to reach an accommodation, and not just for themselves”.
Emphasising that he wasn’t underplaying the challenges of the boundary question, the minister said, “I’m totally convinced that the solution to the situation has to be found in the domain of diplomacy.”
India and China have a long history, which is “very good in many parts, very indifferent in some parts, and very difficult in some parts”, he said, adding the “more difficult parts are more recent”.
Jaishankar said he had taken a long view of ties in his book, which was written before the standoff began, and there are agreements and understandings on the border issue that must be scrupulously observed by both sides. “Neither party should attempt to change the status quo unilaterally, and the reality is what happens on the border will impact the relationship. You cannot separate that,” he said.
He ducked a question about his recent remarks that he didn’t understand why China has thousands of troops on the LAC, saying it was for Beijing to provide an answer on this issue.
Jaishankar also said he wasn’t comfortable with terms such as “Himalayan cold war” or “hot peace”, and that the two sides have to “work our way through this”. He added, “ I am convinced that the way out is through diplomacy. That will happen if both sides see it is in their own interests that we don’t see what we have seen this summer.”
Jaishankar also listed the rise of China and the changed approach of the US to world affairs as two of the most impactful shifts in recent times. While the US has pulled back from its “global project” and shifted from alliances, the velocity and impact of the rise of China has exceeded everything else, he said.