External affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Saturday the immediate focus should be on restoring peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as settling the complicated boundary issue with China will require more time.
India and China had been developing cooperation in areas such as trade, tourism and societal activity since the late 1980s because of peace and tranquillity in the border areas and this year’s border standoff had “deeply disturbed” the situation, Jaishankar said during an online conversation with former ambassador Gautam Bambawale, Pune International Centre.
“It’s not our position that we should solve the boundary... question. We understand that’s a very complicated, very difficult issue. There have been many negotiations on this at different levels over a different period. That’s a very high bar for a relationship,” Jaishankar said.
“I’m talking of a much more basic bar, which is [that] there must be peace and tranquillity along the LAC in the border areas and that has been the case since the late 1980s. If peace and tranquillity is deeply disturbed then, obviously, there will be an impact on the relationship and that is what we are seeing.”
The standoff, currently in its sixth month, has taken India-China ties to a new low, with troops firing warning shots at friction points – the first time guns have been used along the LAC since 1975. The two sides have also been unable to push forward a disengagement and de-escalation process despite several rounds of diplomatic and military talks.
Jaishankar said the “big question” in the current scenario was how two large and developing countries such as India and China could find equilibrium. India had sought to normalise “what was a very difficult relationship” by developing cooperation with China since the late 1980s “on the premise that there will be peace and tranquillity in the border areas”, he pointed out.
Asked if India could learn from China’s rise, Jaishankar said there were basic differences in the governance, polity and society of the two countries. In recent years, India had depended on imports and failed to create support systems that would boost manufacturing and industrial activity, he said.
India will have to expand small and medium enterprises and strengthen its industrial base, innovation and manufacturing, he said, adding that looking to the services sector to solve all problems “is a fantasy”.
A turning point in the modern era was 2008, marked by the global financial crisis and the rise of China, India and ASEAN, which led to economic rebalancing, he said. This process took an even sharper turn in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which accelerated trendlines and led to greater multi-polarity, he said.
India’s ability to “step up and assume global responsibility to do good” is a very important part of the country’s rise, Jaishankar said. It is also in India’s strategic interest to facilitate and partner in the rise of Africa. “If Africa becomes one of the poles of the global polity, it is better for us,” he said.