The larger issue relating to the border row in eastern Ladakh is whether India and China can build a relationship based on mutual sensitivity and respect and whether Beijing would live up to the written commitments about both sides not deploying a large armed force along the frontier, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Tuesday.
At a virtual conversation at the Qatar Ecomonic Forum, he also made it clear that there was no connection between India becoming part of the Quad and the border issue with China. Jaishankar said the Quad has its own agenda based convergences in the world view among the member countries and the areas of cooperation included maritime security, connectivity, education and vaccines.
“The India China border issue has pre-existed the Quad. In many ways, it is a challenge (and) problem which is quite independent of the Quad. There are, of course, two big issues right now; one of course is that the close up deployments still continue, especially in Ladakh,” he said. “The issue there is whether China would live up to the written commitments it has made about both countries not deploying a large armed force at the border and the larger issue really (is) whether we can build this relationship on the basis of mutual sensitivity, mutual respect and mutual interest,” he added.
India and China were locked in a military standoff at multiple friction points in eastern Ladakh since early May last year. However, the two sides completed the withdrawal of troops and weapons from the North and South banks of Pangong lake in February following a series of military and diplomatic talks.
The two sides are now engaged in talks to extend the disengagement process to the remaining friction points. India has been particularly pressing for disengagement of troops in Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang. According to military officials, each side currently has around 50,000 to 60,000 troops along the Line of Actual Control in the sensitive sector.
The Quad, comprising India, the US, Australia and Japan, is aimed at ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific, a region that witnessed increasing Chinese military assertiveness in recent years. The agenda of cooperation among the Quad countries also included several other areas.
Asked about the plan by the Group of Seven (G7) countries to develop infrastructure under its Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative, Jaishankar said India was looking forward to working with the bloc on it. At the same time, he listed India’s development projects in large number of countries and said New Delhi would continue with them.
“It is an area where we do feel that there is a lot of convergence with the G7 and we are looking forward to working with them. But as I said we have substantial portfolio of projects we have already done in the last years and which I expect to see us continue to do more in the coming years,” hes said. In its recent summit in the UK, the G7 richest democracies vowed to help the developing nations in rolling out infrastructure projects under the B3W initiative, which is increasingly seen as plan counter China’s Belt and Road initiative.