The violent clashes on the India-China border in June had a very deep public and major political impact and has left the relationship “profoundly disturbed”, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Friday.
Tensions had escalated manifold between India and China after the Galwan Valley clashes in eastern Ladakh on June 15 in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army also suffered an unspecified number of casualties.
Jaishankar, speaking at a virtual event hosted by the Asia Society, said that India has built the relationship with China over the course of last 30 years “and a basis for building that relationship has been peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control”.
He said there are multiple agreements, starting from 1993, which created the framework for that peace and tranquillity, which limited the military forces that came to the border areas, how to manage the border, how border troops behave when they approach each other.
“So, from the conceptual level down to the behavioural level, there was an entire sort of framework out there. Now, what we saw this year was a departure from this entire series of agreements. The massing of a large number of Chinese forces on the border was clearly contrary to all of this. And when you had friction point which was a large number of troops at different points very close to each other, then something tragic like what happened on 15th of June happened,” he said.
“To underline the enormity of that, it was the first military casualty we had after 1975. So what it has done is, it has obviously had a very deep public impact, very major political impact and it has left the relationship profoundly disturbed,” Jaishankar said.
The Galwan incident was the first military casualty after 1975 at the LAC between India and China. The build-up by the Chinese started in the month of May and since then they are present in the area.
When asked about the reason for Chinese aggressiveness with India at the LAC, the Jaishankar said, “I haven’t frankly got any reasonable explanation that I can tell from them on the matter”. He highlighted, “Large number of troops with weapons concentrated at that segment of border.. and it is a critical security challenge we face.”
Jaishankar said that apart from the Wuhan Summit in April 2018, there was a similar summit in Chennai in 2019 and the idea of the summit was that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping spend time, talk to each other directly about their concerns. “What happened this year of course was a very sharp departure. Now it’s not just a sharp departure from the conversation, it’s a sharp departure over a course of relationship over 30 years,” he said.
Both Indian and Chinese foreign and defence ministers met each other in September, and since then two corps commanders meet has taken place to defuse the tensions at LAC.
In the special Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) event, Jaishankar was in conversation with ASPI President Kevin Rudd, a former Australian prime minister.